From Alejandro Landes, who won acclaim with his film “Porfirio” (a true story about a paraplegic shot by police), comes “Monos.” The film is hyper-realistic and intense, recalling epics “The Beach” by Alex Garland and the classic “Apocalypse Now.”
This film is a character study of a young guerilla army in the Colombian jungle. In style and structure, it most recalls “Lord of The Flies.” The first shock of the film is that these soldiers are children who could be in school yet they are carrying machine guns.
It is immersive with large majestic visuals. Monos is the name of a loosely organized gang deep in the mountains. To gain respect, they kidnap a Westerner, a doctor (Julianne Nicholson). She is often bound and put underground with little resources beyond basic food. Periodically she is put in the open air to read the news headlines.
The masculine Wolf (Julian Giraldo) is in charge of the group and a cow, which they use for milk, a valuable resource. In the group also is Rambo (Sofia Buenaventura), Bigfoot (Moises Arias), and the enigmatic Swede (Laura Castrillón) among others. The group is bound by ritual and power. When the cow is accidentally shot by another member named Dog (Paul Cubides) all hell breaks loose. Wolf takes on the guilt and becomes a Kafkaesque figure, unable to face the burden of failure. Dishonor is a terminal sin.
Foremost in the film is its rich cinematography by Jasper Wolf, which depicts both the landscape and the children within as one vast pagan rite. Eat or be eaten. When Wolf and Lady (Karen Quintero) become a couple it is more a Halloween event than any Valentine’s Day romance.
This kiddie chiaroscuro gradually gives way to the doctor fighting for her life, and the apprehension is as tense as John Boorman’s “Deliverance.” There are no set rhythms or predictable circumstances. The only currency is power and control. Nicholson is excellent, as is the entire young cast which equals the pathos of their past generational “doubles,” Brando and Martin Sheen, from the aforementioned Coppola classic.
Although the film does echo other survivalist stories from Joseph Conrad to William Golding, a picture is all that is necessary. The magnetism of “Monos” in its depiction of children in a great bestial maze of blood and fire, (especially as they carve up the bovine corpse and become increasingly animalistic), is surprisingly scary, meditative and human.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org