Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review: 'Sin Nombre' (B+)

By Chase Kahn

For those detractors to Danny Boyle's unnaturally optimistic portrayal of triumph in the face of adversity, there is a lot to admire here in Sin Nombre, the feature debut of writer-director Cary Fukanaga. A straight-forward but beautifully told journey set in the gangland slums of Central America (Honduras and mostly Mexico). It's indelibly shot and leisurely paced, opposed to the kinetic and visceral styles seen in both Boyle's film and Fernando Meirelles' City of God.

Here, the shots are allowed to unfold and soothe naturally and it's no wonder with the work the director and lenser Adriano Goldman have done. Shot almost entirely on location in Southern Mexico, Sin Nombre will go down as one of the most visually proficient and naturalistically beautiful films of the year. The juxtaposition of beauty and poverty is apparent in almost every shot. Director Cary Fukanaga said in a later interview that he was inspired by Terrance Malick's Days of Heaven and it shows -- the thing is just gorgeous without feeling like a rotating slab of bookstore postcards.

There are no narrative tricks or bouts of inauthenticity, either -- this is just a nicely written film about Mexican gang culture and the pursuit of happiness, complete with your standard villains, good guys, love interests, etc. All enhanced by the beauty of the film and the outstanding performance of Edgar Flores (and to a lesser extent, Paulina Gaitan). I can't express how well-done it all is, even a portion of Marcelo Zarvos' musical tones gave me chills. This is a brutal, extravagant achievement and another terrific immigration-road film.

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