A young woman enters a beauty pageant and (follow me here) ends up drawn into the nightmarish world of Mexico’s drug wars. If nothing else, consider this a magnificent stylistic triumph. The director Gerardo Naranjo subscribes here to the “one scene, one shot” philosophy, so the film is made up of long mobile takes that are mesmerizing, immersive, and disorienting—and always seem to find the perfect way to observe the action. But what about the action itself? The writing is something I feel less strongly about, and when the film explicitly announces its intentions as a social awareness film, it runs into a common problem: if a film is so cinematic, does it really capture reality, or does it just give you a movie? (For an example on how to make staged events feel unstaged, I’d point to The Battle of Algiers).
8 out of 10.