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A story of young people in Colombia
estebanabch27 August 2019
I'm a Colombian, this movie represent the fears of most of the young people the absence, of state, family or someone who guide you or show the other ways to live a life. Most of the decisions that a young colombian is decided by fear or experience in this case, violence. This movie represent in their characters different personalities in a group of friends that had to act like adults. It's a perfect critic to the state what happens when a young dont want to live through violence or unlike with it?. This movie show reality that is hide from media, a scream of bravery a young people that make choices maybe the only choices that he or she have. I saw it with my family, and my parents really understand it because it's not only to my generation, represent a lot of history and kids that live that right now it's not only a movie is a story that can read past, present and future of young people in colombia, fit in every time, that is the way to see it. Just research about young and kids in colombia to really appreciate the movie, i'm very lucky young in colombia have study, family and opportunities but i'm a concerned about other regions that not even have water, educations or opportunities to choose a live.
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A bleak allegorical study of war as seen through the eyes of children
Bertaut18 November 2019
Heart of Darkness (1899) and Lord of the Flies (1954) by way of the mad folly of Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972) and Apocalypse Now (1979) and the children-are-screwed nihilism of Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco (1981) and Johnny Mad Dog (2008), garnished with the soul-shattering futility-of-war mentality of Idi i smotri (1985), all wrapped up in a pseudo-fairy tale/fantasy aesthetic. Turns out an insane hodgepodge like that results in a completely unique film, quite unlike anything you're ever likely to have seen. Written by Alejandro Landes and Alexis Dos Santos, and directed by Landes, Monos (from the Greek "mónos", meaning "alone") is an uncategorisable film that moves from a mountain top which is literally above the cloud-line to a stifling jungle to a raging river to the edge of a city in the midst of war, whilst thematically travelling all the way from a tight-knit group of soldiers who would die for one another to a last-man-standing mentality bordering on insanity. Visually stunning, the plot is a little lacking, and sometimes the allegorical basis is a tad imprecise, but this is hugely ambitious and audacious filmmaking from a director we're going to be hearing a lot about in the coming years.

In an unidentified country at an unidentified point in time, a war is raging between unidentified combatants for never-specified reasons. On a mountaintop, we're introduced to the MONOS unit, a small group of child soldiers with two tasks - to look after a conscripted milk-cow and to guard an American prisoner being held for ransom, referred to as Doctora (Julianne Nicholson). By day, they take their duties very seriously, but by night, they act more like the teenagers they are; drinking, eating mushrooms, having sex, goofing around. A tight-knit group, morale is high. That is until an accident has a series of knock-on effects that ultimately sees them abandon their mountain base, heading into the unforgiving jungle far below. Cut off from their chain of command, their discipline starts to break down and soon, they have come into violent conflict with one another.

Although the film is very loosely inspired by the Colombian Conflict, a low-intensity, multi-sided civil war that began in 1964 and is still going on today, one of its most important aspect elements is a lack of political, historical, societal, and militaristic specificity - it could be an allegory for almost any conflict at any point in time. Rather than attempting to elicit pathos by evoking the horrors of a particular conflict, Landes treats the story as a universal allegory, facilitated by the lack of concrete contextualisation. In this sense, it has both a fairy-tale sensibility and a mythological underpinning, with the violence and brutality offset by a poetic tone that speaks to timelessness.

On top of this, the film examines the chaos and absurdity of war through the lens of adolescence; although the members of MONOS can be violent, so too are they teenagers, a duality that informs the entire film. The opening scene, for example, depicts the group playing football, but wearing blindfolds, thus encapsulating both the seriousness with which they regard their training, but also acknowledging that play is still an important part of their lives. Indeed, the film could even be interpreted as an allegory for adolescence itself - a group of teenagers unsure who they are, experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and sexuality, not entirely thrilled about being told what to do by adults, and convinced that they can do a better job of running things.

Monos's most salient aesthetic characteristic is its dream-like quality, walking a very fine line between the gritty realism of a war drama and the hallucinatory feel of a fever-dream (in this, it very much recalls Apocalypse Now). This sense of existing just slightly outside reality is aided in no small part by the discordant and dislocating score by Mica Levi, which is built around whistling and timpani percussion. Also important here is the lush and saturated photography by Jasper Wolf. On the mountain, Wolf often shoots scenes with the characters dwarfed in a small corner of the frame, filling almost the entire screen with vegetation and sky. Such compositions suggest life lived at the edge of the world, existing outside society, existing outside even time. However, once we relocate to the jungle, Wolf goes in the opposite direction, shooting in tight close-ups, frequently handheld, suggesting both claustrophobia and the loss of the near-omniscient control seen earlier in the film.

If I were to criticise anything, it would be the plot, which is very slight, even by allegory standards. Indeed, regarding that allegory, although I certainly admire Landes's steadfast resistance to specificity, sometimes he's almost too successful in rendering the non-specific and universal, leaving you wondering what exactly he is trying to allegorise (even the title can't be locked into a single meaning - apart from the Greek word for "alone" and the name of the unit itself, it's also the Spanish term for "monkey"). And although the theme of child soldiers is a weighty enough issue on its own, it's something with which Landes seems uninterested for its own sake. This can lead to a lack of emotion, which is almost certainly by design, but it makes it difficult to feel empathy for any of the characters, even Doctora.

Nevertheless, this is hugely ambitious cinema with a lot on its mind. Straddling the line between the surreal and the barbaric, realism and fantasy, the seriousness of the adult world and the innocence of childhood, it's a singularly unique viewing experience, as beautiful, lyrical, and abstract in some places as it is ugly, crude, and realistic in others. Both a dire prediction for where an increasingly divided world may be heading and a foundation myth, Monos speaks as much to our future as it does to the legends underpinning our present.
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I'm lost. A movie with everything but a storyline
Borntobeactive20 March 2020
I simply was excited to see this, not only because I'm latino but because I saw the review of how beautiful the scenery, the music and the acting were. I agree with those. Yet, it lacked storyline. In didn't get it. It has no beginning and less an end. It's movies like this that make me hate my wasted time. I enjoyed the scenery, acting and the music but what the heck was that??
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Beautiful but vacuous
chrisstdeuce2 November 2019
Unfortunately some very decent visuals contrast with some cumbersome attempts to get the viewer interested in characters and story. And some arresting shots are all the credit I can give, there's no exciting sequences, absolutely no humour, and (I think intentionally) no context about the fighting and conscription of youths save for a finishing shot of a city which I think was Medellin. A realistic picture of children with machine guns in a jungle is surely a relevant and important subject but this piece is not engaging, I was very relieved when it was over.
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Savagely Powerful & Extreme...
Xstal21 April 2020
The potential future leaders of the world and their citizens show us how much worse it could be when their time arrives - especially when left to their own devices, without safety nets, guidance and above all love.

We corrupt our children at our peril but most of the time we're unaware of the damage done to them and to us as a result.

Another great piece of thought provoking and engaging cinema - this time from Columbia but the message is universal.
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Let's review the reviewers
nybred412 December 2019
Did you ever read a review and get the feeling that the reviewer is writing the review under the assumption that the review and reviewer will be reviewed? That's how many of the 'Monos' reviews read. The New York Times got this one right are. It was impossible to understand the movie in real time. Even when a few pieces, of action were glued together, the very serious, dark messages were weakly served. Patience and concentration we're not rewarded. If you wanna look very smart, watch the movie, or don't even, and write a puzzling, convoluted review of what might have happened in "Lord of the Flies" if Piggy had an automatic weapon!
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Shows Colombia's bleeding pain
danielatangarife5 September 2019
See, most reviews here don't even care to analyze the conflict Colombia has lived for over 60 years where this youth recruiting has happened continuously. It's cinematography is perfect, music stunning and it tells the truth without showing a side: no guerrilla or paramilitares boots. This is a conflict that has killed thousands of lives. Study your history before watching it and you'll get why this film is so important for Colombians -and for the world.
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Disorienting on purpose, but powerful if you can connect
DoctorMeticulous8 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Many of the other reviewers seem to have missed what I thought was the point of this provocative and mesmerizing film.

First, let me say that the cinematography in this film is striking. And I think that is part of the point: the world is beautiful, and sometimes dangerous and cruel--but not as dangerous and cruel as people can be.

The film begins with hardly any exposition, and one has to pay attention to discern the relationships between the characters. The first time we see Juilanne Nicholson's character, Doctora, it is not immediately apparent that she is a prisoner. And even when that becomes clear, there is still a lot of ambiguity built into the film by the choices the director makes. For example, there is a scene early in the film in which Doctora is coerced into helping to beat on one of her captors--and we then find out it is his sixteenth birthday, and the beating is a more intense version of a birthday spanking.

Nicholson's character arc is the B plot of this film. The A plot is the shifting relationships among/between her captors--a group of child warriors who are left to themselves at a remote outpost in a ruined bunker. We are not told where the story is happening, exactly (although it is clearly in Latin America someplace), or when, or what cause the characters are fighting for. They are under the command of The Messenger, whose dwarfish stature is probably not an accident of casting. The kids themselves all have nicknames, including Rambo and Smurf; suggesting, perhaps, the long shadow cast by American culture. But the overall lack of specificity lends to the film a timeless quality, one that implies we could be looking at any war, anyplace, and the outcomes would be much the same.

There are echoes of Apocalypse Now and Lord of the Flies, as the behavior of the kids becomes more erractic and savage as they leave their mountain bunker for a trek through the jungle. Interpersonal bonds begin to break down due to the stress. The violence (and life itself) ultimately comes to seem petty, arbitrary, and degrading to the human spirit, which I think is the point of the film. At one point, one of the younger child soldiers articulates her dream of dancing on television, and she may as well be speaking about another galaxy. And it becomes clear that she needs love, and can't get it.

People who are confused by the end of the film must not know that the fascist dictator General Pinochet had many left-leaning dissidents thrown out of helicopters (or that the sentiment "Pinochet Wasn't Wrong" with a helicopter graphic turned up on t-shirts worn by neo-fascists in Portland, Oregon, earlier this year). The predicament of the last character the film shows may not simply be individual, but may be emblematic of the whole of Latin America itself.

The purposefully disorienting effects of the film are intended, I think, to encourage the audience to empathize with the characters in the film. I mean, I hated high school, but at least I wasn't conscripted to fight a war in the jungle or got robbed of a normal childhood. I also wasn't put in a cage for fleeing the kind of violence depicted in this film; a little empathy on the part of the USA might be called for.

The film has a lot of powerful visual images, and the predicaments of the characters are going to stick with me. I count that as the result of successful filmmaking.
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Overrated movie
ks-6050012 March 2020
I just don't know what's the end means and what important messages did delivery from reviews stated. It's just a kidnap by teenage who just mess around the whole thing. Stupid kids
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A great film
simonm-173139 March 2020
We follow a group of teenagers who are being trained as guerrilla soldiers, but who in this incredibly harsh environment respond to various crises each in their various ways - echoing the lord of the flies immensely with the breakdown of the group (and a very unsubtle visual homage at one point). Not knowing anything about the politics surrounding the war they are involved in, it is quite disorientating and we the viewers experience only the immediate surroundings, threats and fears of the characters, who are all portrayed very well by these young actors. The cinematography is beautiful, with rich colours and some very memorable compositions. As slight downsides, I found the plot a bit frantic - so much happens to these characters, and the chaos of the film is deliberate, but there could be more scenes of dialogue in the midst of the action to get us even more involved with the characters. The choice to leave the region and conflict unspoken is interesting - apparently the film was inspired by the guerrilla war in Columbia, but it's never stated. For many of us from other countries the film would have been a path to greater awareness of the conflict, but I guess it likes to keep the very enclosed feeling of isolation with the characters, remain 'apolitical' and leave us to do our own research.
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Great production and movie
estebansrp16 August 2019
Amazing colombian scenery, combined with a bizarre story along with great actors. This movie is a thrill ride and it kind of exhausts you in a good way. Definitely recommended.
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wwxxvp27 March 2020
Also a shame the director tortured a cow to death to make his worthless point.
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The horror
johandysolo28 August 2019
Beautiful landscape. Strange storyline. Great soundtrack. Not everyone's cup of tea.

Bizarre story about a jungle commando in South America. Most of the actors are kids. Many resemblances with Apocalypse now.
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Could not enjoy - nothing really happened
charybdis-m28 August 2019
Saw this at a Sneak Preview in my city. I'm usually very openminded when it comes to cinema and I can enjoy and appreciate almost everything. Monos rubbed me the wrong way. The audience was left puzzled as to what the message (morale) of the story was and overall the constant beeping made it really difficult for me to enjoy the film. Cinematography: stunning. But this was not the movie for me.
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War stripped of flags
TheDonaldofDoom4 November 2019
I see people saying you need to know about the Colombian context in order to truly understand this film. Maybe that is true to an extent, but the director deliberately removes any context that would tell you about the situation. That is for a reason. Because context is removed, you don't know who the characters are fighting for or why they're fighting. You can't say whether they are on the 'good' or 'evil' side, if there even is one at all.

From the get-go the film immerses you into their lives forcefully and vividly. You don't need to know what the wider context or motive is to understand the very human drama. What I see is children making decisions based on a range of factors: fear, power, pride. But I also see children who are missing vital components of a human's existence because of the war that forces them to think like robots at times. Paradoxically, they also have the freedom and lack of authority to let them run riot at times, manifesting in wild, irrational decisions and bizarre, disturbing rituals. This unnatural state of being, war plus lack of social structure, is the cause. Yet you do get glimpses of their youth being expressed in more innocent ways, that remind you that there is still some humanity buried in there.

I like that despite the situations the characters are in, Monos isn't bothered with making you pity them. It's interested in things other than that well-worn trope. It doesn't try to make you hate them either. Rather, it shows how they can do evil things, irrational things, and occasionally, good things. But ultimately, child or adult, war makes demons of us all.

Another thing that really hooked me into this film is the cinematography, which is at times beautiful but is foremost fixed on expressing the characters' emotions. During crazy ritualistic behaviour, it becomes frenzied. As the group becomes increasingly disjointed, the camera is increasingly disorienting too.
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Why you should watch this film
trpuk196828 April 2020
Hallucinatory plunge into the depths of the human soul certainly won't be for everyone. However, if you have the nerves its a dark, unsettling exhilaratingly wild and ultimately rewarding ride.

I agree with other reviewers about comparisons to Aguirre Wrath of God, Deliverance, Apocalypse Now, Southern Comfort as well as child soldier films such as Johnny Mad Dog or Come and See. However, Monos also bears comparison with two much older films. The first being Figures in a Landscape (Joseph Losey, 1970). This starred Robert Shaw and Malcolm McDowell as two men on the run in a bleak landscape, possibly Europe, possibly the Americas somewhere, evading soldiers, a menacing black helicopter and, on occasion, raiding villages for supplies. The second is 1985's The Emerald Forest, (John Boorman) set in the South American rain forest and exploring environmental themes through the story of a lost child. Both films address existentialist questions and lost children respectively, themes which abound in Monos, whose children are metaphorically if not at times literally also lost.

Monos is the superior film to Figures by virtue of a firmer commitment to ambiguity. Neither film indicates where, or indeed when, it's taking place. Neither film gives back story to the characters. Whereas dialogue is sparing in Monos, in Figures there's speech throughout, with both men holding forth their philosophies on life and especially women. This jars somewhat with the otherwise Kafkaesque feel and results in a film which, rather than being one of the great classic cult movies of the seventies, such as Deliverance, is more of a curious period piece, it's excessive acting and attempts at profundity over reaching and rendering it somewhat dated.

It's too long since I saw The Emerald Forest to be able to properly compare it, suffice to say I'll shortly be returning to it, assuming I can get hold of it. At the time of writing Figures was uploaded on to youtube.

The lack of a clear narrative arc and the use of multiple protagonists means that MONOS will frustrate some viewers. The film expresses ideas and notions rather than 'working through' a problem or presenting the viewer with a moral - the lack of any clear moral sense will further unsettle those who're accustomed to the conventions of narrative film.

The militia unit of eight teenagers is presumably modelled on cults / guerrilla organisations like Peru's Shining Path or Colombia's FARC. While ostensibly about child soldiers and the cynical way in which youthful idealism (and naivety) is taken advantage of and exploited by those older, ultimately MONOS is about the human condition and essentially the human animal alone in an indifferent universe. The title Monos can be read as an ironic comment - Spanish for 'monkey' in that we humans are in fact nothing more than relatively sophisticated primates.

Several themes are explored. How to live our lives, how to adjust to, negotiate the compromises the individual needs to make in order to secure the safety and advantages from the group. The consequences of the individual abnegating responsibility and prioritising transient pleasures over longer term prosperity.

The group of teenagers can be seen as a microcosm of the human race - given a cow to look after, their negligence leads to its death. The cow can be seen as allegorical of the earth which, like the cow in the film, provides for us. We're likewise custodians failing to care for, nurture and secure the earth for future generations.

There's little sense of the kids working together in a cohesive manner. Authority and order are remote, at the end of a radio. Those of a religious faith would acknowledge that any God, if we accept God's existence, has allowed humanity to get on with things by itself. My reading of the film is that we are indeed alone, in an indifferent universe, with only ourselves. God is as remote as whoever is at the end of the radio. If a saviour exists, it's in the form of Messenger (played by former FARC member Wilson Salazar), the commander who arrives intermittently. There's another analogy here with this character as a possible saviour figure and I won't reveal spoilers because my purpose is here to tell you Why You Should Watch This Film.

Camera work and different locations are really effective in conveying meaning, moving from agoraphobia on the mountain top to claustrophobia in the jungle and river scenes. Close in camera work, honing in on the characters faces conveys their bewilderment and there's an incredible visceral quality. As Messenger pushes them through their paces, the sheer futility of human existence expressed as they run on the spot, going nowhere, their feet pounding in the mud or in the water. We are animals, monkeys, of the earth and no amount of thought, ideology will change that.

The cast of largely non professionals turn in totally convincing performances all the more real for being informed by lived experiences. Apparently the director of the film invited teenagers from all over Colombia and, having narrowed down the applicants, put them through an actual military style 'boot camp.' The uncertainties and anxieties of adolescence are consistently conveyed by the young cast through facial expression, body language and movement. As is the impetuousness of that age, the compulsion and the craziness. Tension sustains, this is an edge of your seat film because we simply don't know where these kids are going or what they're planning, or going, to do.

Another way this movie triumphs is through use of sound and the incidental music, which reinforces the interior worlds of the characters. The score by composer Mica Levi is superb. I'm not a fan of music in films, however in this case less in the form of beautiful yet unsettling electronica is most definitely more hence all the more effective. The sound scape in the jungle scenes is also masterful aural sculpture, building, sustaining a sense of quiet unease, claustrophobia and a feeling of dread through the sounds of the forest.

Be warned. This certainly isn't for everyone. See it if...You like your action movies philosophical, leaving plenty of room for thought, speculation, interpretation. You can manage the dread, anxiety, apprehension you'll likely feel. A vertiginous plunge into the darkest recesses of the human condition. Just be sure to see it on the biggest screen with the loudest speakers that you can.
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Psycotic, Realistic and Insane.
miguelovargasmejia20 August 2019
A Strong film proposal. This movie looks inside human condition and the darker instinct on it. A Great soundtrack, good film locations, well accomplished casting and a crude cinematography lead viewer to an insane state of restlessness. If you like psyco thrillers, you can´t lose this movie.
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Wait, what?
lilacrosecambridge7 March 2020
A film with no beginning, no middle, no end. Quite an achievement.
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casper_janeway21 December 2019
What just happened? My sister and I just sat there when it ended and we looked at each other and uttered at the same time "WHAT THE I speak both languages Spanish and English and that didn't help one iota. Julianne Nicholson is a wonderful talented American actress and I would love to ask her this simple question "why?" I don't want to give away any spoilers, oh wait there aren't any. I will say this, watchers beware, you're in for a numbing experience. And if you do, dare to immerse yourself into this viewing venture, please come back and explain to me the ending. Good luck my friends.
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scepeda257 September 2019
Despite the good cinematography, the story is very poor (not a good narrative at all); absolutelly boring and disappointing.
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Less than Half-baked attempt
katarn1316 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This movie fails on so many levels, it's hard to know where it would be best to start. From idiotic, undisciplined children having sex with each other left and right, to the writer's/ director's pandering to progressives (the mandatory gay and lesbian scenes are both in the movie of course), even though no sane person would want to see these kids do Anything sexual of any orientation. The film accurately shows their meaningless violence, substance abuse without any meaningful commentary. This is not a film to be praised. The filmmaker fails on every level to make it meaningful. The sound effects are awful and irritating. The actors are decent but heir talent is wasted on this thin, "whatever" storyline. Gratuitous shots of the boys' abs are included and it makes one think that these shots were part of the reason these kids took these roles. And yes, the scenery, The Andes, is wonderful but barely utilized, if at all.

This movie is an awful waste of the talent and money involved.
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Slow and exhausting
aslambiental26 August 2019
A really slow movie, it gets to a point that the only thing stopping you from falling asleep are the gunshots are the rain, I've read a lot of reviews from newspapers, specially colombian ones, that say the movie touches your inner fivers I would like to know if I watched the same movie they did, or if I got another version. When the film was halfway through I thought of leaving the cinema, going home, something more interesting, but then I remembered about the money I had spent on tickets and popcorn so, I chose to stay and at least try to get some sleep. It was like watching a race between to snails during 2 hours, the only difference is that it was more disgusting. People say that a good movie should always leave a message or at least to leave you thinking, n this case, why is it considered a good film??
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Very good movie considering the low budget, love it!
drjorgeobregon28 January 2020
I don't understand the hate of someone who qualifies a movie with one star just because "it's boring". Maybe "Monos" is not for everyone, but nobody can say that with the low budget available their creators have done a splendid job, the cinematography by Jasper Wolf takes advantage of the magnificent landscapes of what it means to be the Colombian jungle. A film without a clear situation of time or place but that was not necessary since it goes deep into the nature of the human being, we all have evil within us and Alejandro Landes, its director, explores it impeccably. Clear references to "Lord of the flies" with winks like the pig's head, if the influence was no longer obvious. A crude vision of what is the militarization of children in what could be the FARC in Colombia, maintains the interest of the spectator and only in the end looks like it may not end up paying what was invested for an hour and 40 minutes. A film with a very low budget, with almost all the cast without acting experience previously with a brilliant cinematography and scenes that could never be filmed in a Hollywood movie (the scene without stunts on the rivera are impressive). The best of Latin American cinema in the last two years.
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Appalling, boring random sequence
fuzzyjj-128 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Watched this in the sneak and did not make it to the end At about 2/3 (and this is the first time ever) i walked out of the cinema. Wannabe artsy cinematography, but it never showed any images that call any emotion or are appealing. The music (or should i say "noise") does not support the images in any way and is probably only made loud at some points to keep you from falling asleep. The story or plot is a random sequence which some reviewers call philosophical which tells more about their knowledge of philosophy than about the story. A bunch of "guerillas" going through a bizarre and unrealistic series of events. It might all come together at the end but i doubt it and considering we were not the first to leave a lot of people will never know. Absolute waste of time.
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Columbian Lord of the flies rehash
raidatlanta18 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In this film where you can guess a link to FARCs and so on, you don't get what you would be expecting. While you await something that shows the realities of conflicts, or ideologies, of combat, etc. What you really get is just a lord of the flies rehash - with a few very obvious references. Most of it is also quite predictable. You barely see combat, you have a very limited view of child soldiers and how they are handled, treated (mistreated) and scared by their butchers. You don't see the agony of how child soldiers are brutalized, what you have is a bunch of teens with guns with loose orders and essentially no disciplinaries. While the film is visually stunning, making good use of landscapes, visual effects, of sound, etc. and though the actors perform well, it falls short as quite empty. Instead of learning anything about reasons for their "indoctrination" (to what, we do not know - the end offers more of a "evil perpetrates evil" moral, as an out-of-control nonsense spiral ; of which the Columbian conflicts were not, and still aren't), we only get a conclusion along the lines of "some can be saved, and some have been broken".

This movie isn't bad, it just falls short in any plot development, contextualizing, etc. Instead of being the realistic, brutal and shocking film it was expected to be, it's essentially just another psychological thriller.
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