London Film Festival 2011: Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo)

Gripping thriller about innocent wannabe beauty queen Laura (newcomer Stephanie Sigman), who is forced into becoming a drug mule in the on-going war between gangs and the police in Baja, Mexico.

Laura and Suzu apply for the Miss Baja annual contest. Afterwards they go to a nightclub and have a few drinks. While Suzu gets friendly with the policemen who are there, Laura slips off to the bathroom to fix her hair. All of a sudden there are gunmen everywhere and everyone is shot. Apart from Laura who stays hidden.

Freeing herself from the scene she witnesses some men putting body bags into a truck. The next day she finds a policeman in the hope of finding out if Suzu is still alive, but before she tells her story she is kidnapped by the men who raided the club and taken hostage. The gang turns out to be the biggest terrorist group threatening the city, led by bad guy Nino, who takes no prisoners and sees Laura as his new plaything.

What starts as a case of wrong place, wrong time quickly escalates into full scale warfare and a focus on Laura’s fight for survival. The action comes hard and fast, with adrenaline pumping car chases and beaten bodies littering streets.

With Nino fixing the pageant, there is no doubt Laura will win. But this is no Miss Congeniality, straight from her victory luncheon, Laura is raped, beaten (with steel toe-capped boots) and forced into the back of van, driving into the centre of the conflict.

The brilliant cinematography in the action sequences, coupled with believable performances from all, maintained that pulse-racing edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. For me, Stephanie Sigman brought to mind Catalina Moreno in Maria Full of Grace, for the strength in her character that comes to the surface. For those interested, Miss Bala literally translates as ‘Miss Bullet‘.

With 36,000 civilians falling victim to the drug war every year, here lies a political commentary on the lack of control and the fear in the people.

Miss Bala will be released in UK cinemas on 28th October!

Check out an interview with Director Gerardo Naranjo


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