Film Review: Miss Bala

Miss Bala is an absorbing crime thriller, skilfully directed by Gerardo Naranjo. The film offers a tale of woe in circumstances that are bleak but believable.

Laura Guerrero enters a beauty pageant at the insistence of her friend Jessica. Both Laura and Jessica are put through the first round, and are told to return for the next day’s round of heats. Concerned about her friend’s well-being, Laura follows Jessica to a club. Attempting to leave with her friend in tow, gangsters with guns invade the club before Laura can escape…

Miss Bala is a personal story, but one that illustrates more wide-scale issues. The awful position that Laura is put in, and the fear she faces because of this, can be difficult to watch on a personal level. Nonetheless, the film paints a picture of endemic crime and corruption in areas of Mexico. Although Miss Bala is a fictional tale, it is not difficult to see where Naranjo would have drawn inspiration from.

The narrative is carefully crafted so that viewers will increasingly sympathise with Laura as the story progresses. As incidents come to light, Miss Bala becomes a real tragedy. The camera work in the film places viewers in the heart of the action. There are plenty of close-up, hand-held shots which create a feeling of intimacy with the protagonist. The style of shooting works particularly well in the shoot-out scene, which is finely executed.

Stephanie Sigman delivers a powerful performance as Laura. The actress is suitably understated in what is quite the dramatic role. It is Sigman’s performance that really carries the film, heightening the sense of tragedy.

Miss Bala is one of those films that has an impact. Not the type of film for all occasions, but certainly worth seeking out.

Miss Bala is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.

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