heli-posterAlthough the title doesn’t refer to any religious belief – at least that’s what the director is saying – it is impossible to not establish a connection with the harsh journey a family has to endure in this movie: with Heli, Amat Escalante delivers the uncompromising and violent portrait of contemporary Mexico.

If the film includes a few scenes that will most likely shock the most sensitive spectators – most particularly a long torture sequence orchestrated by kids – violence is the backdrop of this story, omnipresent in each plan, whether it’s in everyday life or relayed through the media. We witness it in various forms, from insults to kicking against a door, the roar of machine guns, the killing of a puppy and bodies left on the side of a road. More importantly, it also follows survivors, threatening their post-traumatic recovery, bullying them into silence, while a – corrupted – police remains powerless. It even comes back to haunt them, as in this metaphoric – or would I say nightmarish – scene where an armored vehicle stops in front of a house and then leaves while making everything shake.

Following Los Bastardos’ brutal depiction of immigrants in Los Angeles, Mr. Escalante offers here a frightening vision of a country caught in the middle of a vicious war between drug traffickers and corrupt cops, with a high collateral body count. The film actually opens with a long, beautiful and disturbing sequence featuring a boot crushing a swollen face, in the back of a pickup truck. The camera first gets close to the body and then moves inside the vehicle to watch the road. This brings us to a bridge where we see criminals hanging one of their victims. Pulling with a dolly shot, the movie then transitions to a flashback, which establishes the premise of this story: Heli, a factory worker, lives with his wife, baby, father and his 12-year sister who’s dating a police cadet. Things however quickly get out of control after Heli gets rid of a couple bags of cocaine stolen by his sister’s boyfriend.

Escalante’s talent lies in his ability to introduce setting and characters in just a few short sequences before letting the camera walk us slowly through the story, making us experience the protagonists’ difficult journey. The scene where the camera follows the wife as she gets home and discovers that her house has been ransacked and that there is a trail of blood on the floor captures the character’s surprise and dismay. And when she collapses on her doorstep, the filmmaker pulls away quietly, like a discreet, silent witness, offering there a great moment of cinema.

Director: Amat Escalante – Actors: Andrea Vergara, Armando Espitia – Running Time: 1:45 – Year: 2013 – Country: Mexico

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Moland Fengkov

Moland Fengkov

Based in Paris, Moland is a journalist and photographer; He is more particularly responsible for covering the Cannes film festival for Plume Noire, writing movie reviews and taking gorgeous pictures.
Moland Fengkov

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