Gerardo Naranjo's film is based on the true story of a Mexican beauty pageant contestant who was coerced into participating in various crimes for Tijuana's local drug cartel.
Directed by Gerardo Naranjo(R)
“Violent and amoral, but never wantonly cruel,” Miss Bala is “a knockout” of a film noir, said Andrew O’Hehir in Salon.com. Based on true events, this “bullet-riddled downhill ride” follows a Mexican beauty pageant contestant who, after a run-in with the local drug lord, is coerced into participating in various crimes. While other Mexican filmmakers have worked to combat perceptions about the ubiquity of drug violence, Gerardo Naranjo seems determined to teach viewers that “life in Tijuana isn’t merely as bad as you think; it’s worse.” Naranjo uses long tracking shots brilliantly, and his filmmaking is so consistently virtuosic that Miss Bala feels exhilarating even during scenes of tragic violence, said Manohla Dargis in The New York Times. By keeping his camera close to his star, he also causes the viewer to bond strongly with the character. Relative newcomer Stephanie Sigman completely disappears into the role, said Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. “Watching her face telegraph helplessness and resignation” as she is transformed from an innocent into a cartel minion is “as unnerving as it is mesmerizing.”