Friday, April 17, 2009

Sin Nombre

Cary Fukunaga's "Sin Nombre" has come hot out of Sundance and has compiled a good track record among critics. In his debut film, Fukunaga, like Steve McQueen with "Hunger," takes on a mostly avoided filmmaking subject: immigration. He won a directing award at the aforementioned festival, and for some good reason. He makes a film in the same vein as Fernando Meirelles' "City of God." These type of street smart, camera-savvy pieces are usually critically-acclaimed. The camerawork in "Sin Nombre" is admittedly quite good as well. Adriano Goldman, the cinematographer on the little praised sequel to "City of God," "City of Men," makes good shot compositions and keeps your eye on the screen.

There is also the magnetism of the leads: Edgar Flores as Willy, a gang member that has to go on the run, and Paulina Gaitan as Sayra, the beautiful immigrant who he befriends gradually and strongly. Their friendship is hard, though, since he's under the gun. He's worried about her safety. She just wants to be with him, but her dad and her uncle want her just to get to America, and going with this loner might not be the best ticket. Willy also has a wound: his girlfriend was murdered and apparently almost raped by his gang leader. When he eventually slays this man, his young friend, Smiley (Kristian Ferrer) is sent to put a bullet clean through. These elements provide for unnecessary suspense.

Isn't the journey itself picturesque enough to make a film about? Fukunaga doesn't think so, though. He tries to hammer too hard. He doesn't eventually go for art, he goes for your adrenal glands. He doesn't reach them, though. His ending is manufactured. When the film crosses the border, it doesn't really quite enrapture you as before. Here the destination is nowhere near as interesting as the trip. B+

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