113 minutes| Mexico| 2011| Subtitled| Colour| D-Cinema

We’re inured by now to the mounting casualty figures surrounding Mexico’s drugs trade, but this potent drama brings home what it’s like to live in a society that’s actually a war zone. Leggy and slightly shy Laura (Stephanie Sigman) reckons the local beauty contest offers her a route out of unending toil on the family clothes stall, but the cartels’ tentacles reach everywhere, as she soon discovers when a girls’ night out turns into a massacre and she winds up entangled in the machinations of a much-feared narcotics baron.

Director Gerardo Naranjo takes an enterprising approach to this story of someone trapped in a reality she can’t escape, using long tracking shots to make us feel like we’re seeing unmediated carnage. As Sigman’s resilient heroine risks her life to remain her own woman, her resistance to the all-enveloping corruption acquires a spiritual dimension in a movie which has Michael Mann’s arsenal but Robert Bresson’s soul. So intense you’ll be ducking for cover. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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