Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Gael García Bernal in Desierto
The tension-filled, sparse-landscape thriller from the mind of Jonás Cuarón, son of director Alfonso Cuarón, Desierto is now in select theaters. The horror-tinged film stars Gael García Bernal as a father crossing the border for the second time trying to get to his family. This time, he and the few immigrants fleeing for a better life face the embodiment of hatred. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a murderous racist on the border who kills immigrants for sport, and he’s out for blood.
The film establishes a thrilling tone in the bare setting of the desert where there’s nowhere to hide. Morgan plays the wet dream of pro-Trump folks, a villain who chases the group with with his rifle to murder them in cold blood. Having played The Comedian in Watchmen and now Negan on “The Walking Dead,” his personification of the ‘Make America Great Again’ crowd is jarring and another addition to his dynamic range. Bernal, who has worked with many migrant workers on past films and documentaries, embodies the everyman who fights to continue to be able to provide for his family.
While the performances are stellar, many of the artistic choices felt a bit done at the expense of an experience many families have gone through. The opening where the killer massacres the majority of the group lacked depth, while the attention to detail was more in the cinematography of the sequence. Disregard for the gravity of the situation undermined the statement of the film. While it made the rest of the film uncomfortable to watch, which may have been the intent, it did not read over the rest of the film.
Overall the rest of the cat-and-mouse game with the leads just dragged a bit in the empty expanse. One by one, people get taken out for the final showdown that plays like “Looney Tunes” more than a satisfying climactic ending. While the film’s message attempts to shine a light on a very real evil in the world that comes at the cost of innocent lives, it doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s too lost in mixing genres and looking amazingly shot.
Now in theaters
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