Miss Bala (2011)

Stephanie Sigman, Noé Hernández, Irene Azuela, Jose Yenque,
Miss Bala is a movie starring Stephanie Sigman, Noé Hernández, and Irene Azuela. After entering a beauty contest in Tijuana, a young woman witnesses drug-related murders and is forced to do the gang's bidding.
  • 6.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Mauricio Katz, Writer:
  • Gerardo Naranjo, Director:
  • Pablo Cruz, Producer:

Trailer:

7 / 10

Slow paced but extremely realistic movie

This is the story of a 23 year old girl from Tijuana named Laura who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets involved involuntarily with a drug lord who forces her to take part in his criminal activities for the following days.

There are two things that really surprised me while watching this film. The first is the directing style, quite unusual but with a purpose I must say: a lot of panning, traveling and sequence shots, to give a certain sense of a documentary type of film. In many scenes, the director lets the camera still with the main character while we only "hear" what's going on around her and also a slow paced direction to allow the viewer get a more personal approach to the main character and what she is going through (I believe). The second one is how realistic it all seems, the language, the characters, the locations and especially a shooting scene between cops and narcos that is just breathtaking.

Of course this wouldn't work so well if the acting wasn't first class, and it is indeed, Stephanie Sigman what a fantastic job, really makes us care for the character.

Like "El Infierno", it reflects a sad reality of what Mexico is currently going through with the fight against drug trafficking, and it isn't pretty at all. However I consider this little gem an essential viewing for movie fans and even film students. Highly recommended.

7 / 10

"I want to represent the beauty of my state."

MISS BALA is a strong film from Mexico (apparently based on a true account of the unending drug war focused in Tijuana produced by actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna and James Russo who has a role in the film as a corrupt DEA agent) - a film that is unafraid to uncover the ruthless activities by the drug cartels, the Mexican police, and the US DEA agents in the endless battle against drug trafficking. It hits like a punch in the stomach and remains in the memory long after the credits have rolled.

Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman) dreams of being a beauty queen in the Miss Baja California Beauty Pageant, a position that will raise her out of her meager existence as a dress maker in the outskirts of Tijuana where she lives with her little brother and father. She and her best friend Zuzu work their way into the line of women vying for the contest title. After winning entry into the pageant Laura reluctantly agrees to go to a sleazy nightclub with Zuzu. In the club's toilets she witnesses the covert entry of an organized drugs cartel led by Lino Valdez (Noe Hernandez). Lino is finds Laura to be attractive and smart, and allows her to escape. However, when Laura reports her missing friend Zuzu to a corrupt Mexican police officer, she finds herself delivered back into the hands of Lino, and entangled ever deeper in a vicious drugs war. She is used as a mule to transport drug money across the border, returning to full fledged gang war. Lino uses her physically and then keeps his promise to have her crowned Miss Baja California, but the title and the events that follow lead to horrors and alienation Laura never dreamed possible.

Writers Mauricio Katz and writer/director Gerardo Naranjo push this expose of just how all consuming the drug traffic problem is at the border. It is terrifying and though Laura seems to be a helpless obeying victim throughout the tale, she represents just how futile it must be to attempt to stand against the atrocious crimes being committed. The power of the film is its willingness to show that both side of the war on drugs - gangs, police, DEA agents, and population - are at fault for allowing this outrage to continue. But business is business and the film hints at how hopeless the situation is. Stephanie Sigman emerges as an actress of importance and her part in this film will remain indelibly burned on the minds of the viewers. We should all see this film.

Grady Harp

8 / 10

Powerful Exploration of Mexican Border Violence

The story of a young woman (Stephanie Sigman) clinging on to her dream to become a beauty contest queen in a Mexico dominated by organized crime.

Living in Wisconsin, I know precious little about the Mexican border. But I have written articles on foreign policy and how America's decisions have affected the gangs of Mexico. This film showcases some of that, focusing on the darkest possible angle.

Actress Stephanie Sigman is incredible, having to be a very visual actress in this film: we see her silently cringing or running from gunfire more than she speaks. But I think that this may be harder than just delivering dialogue: her character is kidnapped by gangsters, forced to commit criminal acts, constantly being faced with the possibility of death.

While the gangsters here are ruthless, and rightfully so, there was a political point being made that did not escape me: the presence of DEA agents in Mexico. Whether or not you support the war on drugs, there is good reason to question how American police can patrol the streets of Mexico. Do Mexican federales drive around El Paso? I think not. Their presence does not justify the violence from the gangs, but it does raise the question of why a foreign power is facing a domestic problem.

7 / 10

Strong film, nicely told with a different feel

Beware of those viewers who really just want to see another Femme Nikita or something similar with non-stop unrealistic action led by a pretty babe.

Miss Bala isn't like that. (Dumb title though. Why not just keep Miss Baja? Are they afraid we gringos can't handle that name?) This film is about the way innocent Mexicans are caught up in the narco wars when they're just trying to live their own dreams.

In addition to the strong theme, the movie works because the story does more than carry thematic resonance -- there's suspense (which requires patience that the video-gaming generation may not be able to muster) and a very sympathetic central character. No, she's not always active, but she is reactive; she isn't just passively passing through this story. We care about her because she has a dream that has been sullied, because she cares about others (her friend Zuzu and her brother), and because, even after she's been abused, she's willing to take a risk at the end to prevent a murder.

Add all this to a well-shot movie with an unusual but effective mise-en-scenes in many of the beats and very scary bad guys, and, well, the sum of it all is a very strong movie.

By the way, there are no continuity lapses in the story and the finale makes sense -- but again, it's going to take some thinking. This movie is not an American action pic -- there's more thought behind it, and more thought needed to digest it.

7 / 10

A good, distinctive Drug war thriller

This is a dramatic, creepy, draggingly real and touching good watch. Technically this movie impresses, with solid acting and location shooting, in a fresh way to make you feel a part of the struggles.

This Latin America film is low-key, being removed from Hollywood formulas like modern foreign cinematography, being unusual, distinct and intense. It's independence makes it, with memorable ground-shots and a patience requiring build up to the horror expected.

Miss Bala, tells the mostly believable tale of a beauty queen who survives an event shoot-out and thus has to evade the criminals, as she is the lobe eye-witness. Yanked into a world of crime, Stephanie Sigman survives, with little fight back, playing a usual male role in a drug war thriller.

I enjoyed the film but critics have diluted it's good points with negative criticism over the acting and premise of a modern world cinema piece.