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Miss Bala


Year: 2011 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Gerardo Naranjo 
Starring: Stephanie Sigman, Noe Hernandez, Irene Azuela  
An image from Miss Bala

Don’t be fooled by the pageant title – this isn’t the Mexican version Miss Congeniality. Although pageants do feature, so does a whole heap of gun crime, drugs smuggling and general seedy dealings in this gritty thriller about Mexico’s underworld.

Wannabe beauty queen Laura (Sigman) becomes embroiled in dirty dealings after a visit to a grotty nightclub goes wrong. Witness to a mass murder, she’s kidnapped by a group of anonymous terrorists who force her to undertake one gruelling task after another. Violated and beaten throughout, the feisty young model is exposed to the hardships of unspeakable degrees as she’s dragged through the illegal underbelly of Mexico’s police systems as well the disturbing corruption surprisingly rife in pageantry.

Raw yet highly stylised, Miss Bala is a unique cross between a Hollywood action showpiece and an independent political thriller. Sigman is both a convincing action heroine and equally believable in the role of little girl lost, the perfect mix of vulnerability and tough-as-nails grit. Her tormentors are another mixed bag of pure nasty and misguided sympathy.

This being said, whilst Miss Bala balances enough of the action with some hefty political issues, it refreshingly takes an objective approach. Leaving us to make up our own minds about how this world works and who operate within it, it would be all too easy for film lean left on issues of drug trades and poverty, but in place of anything sentimental is all the cold hard facts- and they are much more powerful.

A surprising film about contemporary issues, dressed up slightly for thrills, Miss Bala is an intoxicating blend of styles and ideas, making for one pageant contest that isn’t all about blubbering swimsuit models and a trite message about ‘World Peace’.

Luke Woellhaf

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Screenings of this film:

2011/2012 Spring Term (35mm)