As a film critic, you must always stay objective before writing anything. Because what you write is something that needs to be considerate as its outcome can be an undesired idea or opinion planted in someone’s mind. And that is something I really want to stay away from, by giving you and anyone an opportunity to decide whether you agree or disagree with me, or moreover, with the concept of the film. As an immigrant myself, I know one thing, no one deserves to be shot and killed like a rabbit, just because one dude decided to go hunting, from an animal to human being… that’s not good.
The narrative of Desierto is very simple. A group of Mexican immigrants tries to cross the US border illegally. Each of them are having their own reasons to seek a better life in the States. But mainly, all of them run away from a dangerous life they face in their own land. However, the danger they find in the face of Sam (James Dean Morgan), an American officer, either a hunter or a former officer, that has never been explained, starts killing them one by one.
Moises (Gael Garcia Bernal) is one of the immigrants who goes to the US to reunite with his son, who awaits for him in Oakland. As the car broke in the middle of a desert, the group will have to walk hundreds of kilometres to approach their final destination. However, when Sam appears with his hunting dog, Tracker, whose name is justified by his ability, it makes for the group even harder to reach the US border. By the time when you reach thirty minutes of its running time, most of them have been brutally killed by Sam as if they were animals. And the irony is what he says after sending his bullet towards human beings when he says: ‘welcome to the land of free’ cheerfully.
Jonas Cuaron who produced and directed the film makes me wonder of his vision as a filmmaker and as an artist. Shot entirely in a desert, the scenery and the rifle gun turns this film into a suspenseful thriller where one man thinks he has all rights to hunt down and kill the illegal immigrants, like that authority was given to him by someone. But it was not. He was just hungry. Sam wanted to kill and prove a point that no one is allowed to enter his land, as it belongs to him only and that’s it. Well, the scary part of Sam is, there are many people like him who most likely go on “unhunting” every day, doing the officer’s job, but instead of arresting, they take a life away… just like that.
It’s stunning to see how much power one hunting rifle can give. How much the ideology can destroy a civilised society. In Desierto you see what you see. It shows the immigrant’s perspective where they have never been portrayed as a villain. And how could they? Since when pursuing a better life was considered as a crime? And James Dean Morgan…. Don’t give this guy a chance to play a villain. Because when he does that, he is fully committed into his character’s objective. And that is something you will hate and admire in him at the same time.
In conclusion, Desierto most likely is the most underrated movie. It’s a piece that you might have never heard of, but when you do, you will be surprised not hearing about it that much before. It’s something you will recommend everyone who you believe will understand and support those who try to cross the border, rather than one who acts like God. Oh yes, this movie has the power in its own way… and what it captures I never saw as fiction. And you know what, you will notice that too…
In addition to that, the following question we all must ask is, can we fix the issue being portrayed in the movie is not our biggest problem… It’s about putting ourselves into the shoes of those who want to have the same house you or me have… Maybe there is a better or safer way of achieving that lifestyle… But nobody ever deserves to be tested by watching how far they can run from the flying bullet, because no matter how fast we can run, the bullet is still faster….