December 27, 2019  (Web Review)

Monos

Universal (avail. from www.amazon.com), 102 min., in Spanish w/English subtitles, R, Blu-ray: $24.98, Dec. 10

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

The title of Alejandro Landes’s film refers to the name given to a squadron of young guerilla fighters stationed atop a towering mountain in a South American country, presumably Colombia (where it was shot). These are feral, ferocious child soldiers, driven less by dedication to ideology than by sheer animal instinct. Between visits from their commander Mensajero (Wilson Salazar)—a diminutive fellow who makes up for his lack of height by barking out orders and insults with gusto—the members of the squad go wild with drugs and drink, constantly baiting and pushing one another in a school of hard and harder knocks. But they also have duties, including taking care of a cow that has been temporarily donated to the movement by a supporter as a source of nutrition. And they are also required to watch over prisoner Sara Watson (Julianne Nicholson), a female engineer being held for ransom. Given their lack of discipline the squad fails at both: the cow is killed and eaten in a drunken revel, and the prisoner escapes, sending them into the wider world in an effort to recapture her. Much violence follows. Monos looks stunning, with remarkable images of extraordinary locations, and all of the performances are strident (but that is what is called for). A raw and uncomfortable film that nonetheless leaves a lasting impression, this is recommended. (F. Swietek)