Monday, November 23, 2009

Review - Sin Nombre

A Honduran teenager Sayra and her father travel illegally on a train headed for the United States. Along the ride, Sayra encounters El Casper, a local gang member who is deeply entrenched within a Mexican gang and seeking a way out. El Casper soon decides to ensure Sayra can realize her dream of living within the U.S. regardless of the consequences.

Written and directed by Cary Fukunaga, "Sin Nombre" is a stark look into the mindset of a desperate immigrant and Mexican gang member. While the two main characters come from different backgrounds, both are drawn towards the same thing, escape. Fukunaga's ability to tell a emotionally staggering story is electrified by the ultra real social political thriller and it's sensational cast.

Any film which opens our eyes to social problems already has my attention but, "Sin Nombre" immerses the viewer with it's painstakingly real story. There is no doubt, in watching the Spanish language film, that director Cary Fukunaga embedded himself within the subculture of South America and experienced the lifestyle firsthand. The result of which is rarely displayed so powerfully on screen.

"Sin Nombre" not only grabs the viewers attention with a stirring story, but through its elegant display of cinematography. Adriano Goldman, who has previously shot films including The Year My Parents Went on Vacation and City of Men, displays a commanding vision of the South american landscape. Goldman furthermore, implants the viewer into the story, giving them startling experience of riding along the train with Sayra and El Casper or being apart of the Mexican street gang.

The title to "Sin Nombre" translates to "Without a Name" and is a polished representation of Fukunaga's thought provoking script. El Casper is a member of a local Mexican street gang. Within his gang, he has numbers and an identity, however he becomes faceless. Just one of the many young men captured within the social system. El Casper or Willy (his given name) wants a way out and it is not till he meet Sayra, that a way out becomes a reality. On the other hand, Sayra is one of the thousands of immigrants who try each day the treacherous and harrowing journey into the United States. These characters apart, are by every definition "without a name" but together, they have a common dream.

"Sin Nombre" is dark and inspiring all at once, but the cast of unknown actors are sensational. It is very uncommon that you find a film that has two undiscovered (at least by American audiences) actors that display such a commanding portrayal on screen. Édgar Flores who plays El Casper/Willy nails the emotional range flawlessly. El Casper is entrenched within his gang, seeing himself slipping away until he meets Sayra and young Flores embodies his character to the letter. His performance is matched by Paulina Gaitan, who plays Sayra. Gaitan, who has a few other films prior, is remarkable as Sayra. She sucks the viewer right into her plight, leaving you on the edge of your seat along with her and Willy's testament of escape.

In the end, "Sin Nombre" is a must see in 2009. It is a vivid depiction of two social problems that plague the Central and South American landscape. The 96 minute film is gripping, disquieting, provocative and something that must be experienced. Cary Fukunaga won this year's award at Sundance for Achievement in Directing, which is a honor Mr. Fukunaga most definitely deserves.