Leave a comment

Cartel Land

So many 2015 films still to cover, but I figured I’d give you my fifth and final Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature, from the 88th Annual Academy Awards. There’s not a bad one among the quintet, and Matthew Heineman’s “Cartel Land” is no exception. “Amy”, the eventual winner (as well as a fine film) was decidedly the safest way to go. “Cartel Land” is brutal, and challenging, and nasty–but music and/or uplift has been taking this prize mostly of late (“20 Feet from Stardom”, “Searching for Sugar Man”, “Undefeated”). However, this chronicle of the ongoing Mexican Drug War is a great one for education on a difficult topic, even if at times it seems a little bit too polished, as well as ends up being dominated by a focus on just one man. That choice centers its narrative, but also ends up diluting its impact. That man is Jose Manuel Mireles Valverde, and his character arc ends up being the most interesting thing about this documentary feature. As a physician, and leader of the Autodefensas that battles the Knights Templar Cartel, its mesmerizing to witness the respect he acquires, and then realize how he slowly starts to abuse it. Tim “Nailer” Foley, of the Arizona Border Recon gets ample screen time too, but its Dr. Mireles who dominates. The both-sides-of-the-border dichotomy is spelled out nicely. So, the locations are strong, but the position and point-of-view is often hazy. That could have been the intention, but the ambiguity isn’t always welcome. But the subject matter concerning vigilante efforts on each side is impossible to turn away from, and completely exciting and compelling. Very good stuff, that falls short of greatness by occasionally playing it safe. Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow is one of the film’s producers.

Grade:  B+


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: