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Laramie Movie Scope: Frontera

A border crossing story

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 17, 2014 -- In trying to catch up with all the movies I missed while doing my annual awards voting, Christmas shopping, letters, packages, etc., I'm afraid this one got buried lower in the pile than it should have. This is really an excellent film about the immigration problems along our southern border and problems with law enforcement, too. It is not a documentary, but a drama. “Frontera” means border in Spanish.

The story starts out with a couple of men crossing the border illegally from Mexico to the United States looking for work. They plan to stay, but it is a tough way to live. Miguel (played by Michael Peña of “End of Watch”) is a no-nonsense hard worker, honest, with common sense. His partner on the trip, Jose (Michael Ray Escamilla) is fun-loving and not very serious.

They hike up an arroyo across the border, passing tons of clothes left behind by those who traveled this same path before. Empty water bottles also mark the trail. They meet a woman on a horse, Olivia (Amy Madigan of “Gone Baby Gone”) who is the wife of retired sheriff Roy (Ed Harris of “Appaloosa”). Roy and Olivia own the border ranch the two men are crossing. Olivia offers the two travelers water and a blanket and tells them where they might get work.

Soon after Olivia rides off down the trail, shots ring out. Three local boys on a ridge are shooting at the Mexicans for fun, trying to scare them. Olivia hears the shots and rides back to investigate. One of the shots spooks her horse and she falls to the ground, striking her head on rocks. Jose runs away, while Miguel stays to help the injured woman. Olivia asks Miguel to get her horse, which has bolted.

About that time Roy pulls up on an ATV. He sees his wife on the ground and Miguel standing there, holding the reins of the horse. He assumes Miguel tried to steal the horse and his wife was injured in the process. Roy draws a bead on Miguel, but doesn't fire his weapon. Miguel sees the gun and runs away. Olivia dies.

There is a rush to judgment when Jose is arrested driving a stolen vehicle. Miguel is arrested and charged with murder, but Roy has doubts about what happened. He does his own investigation and finds evidence that backs the stories of both Miguel and Jose. Roy sets out to find who really was responsible for the death of his wife and to set things right.

This is a modern Western about frontier justice, vigilantes and illegal aliens (including possible terrorists) who rob and kill people along the border. It outlines problems with border security and all the problems with illegal immigration, but it offers no solutions. This story is about a man seeking justice who has serious investigative skills and is able to maintain his objectivity, rather than pin a murder on a convenient suspect. He is after truth and justice. That makes this story very powerful.

Ed Harris gives a great performance in this movie, along with Michael Peña and Eva Longoria, who plays Paulina, Miguel's wife, who crosses the border herself to find her jailed husband in another subplot. There is also another subplot about the boys who caused all this trouble in the first place, and yet another subplot which is finally resolved at the end of the film. There is a lot going on in this film.

I liked everything about this film. It is very well written by Michael Berry and Louis Moulinet. The cinematography, by Joel Ransom (“The X-Files”) is very good. The pace of the film and the editing, by Larry Madaras (“American Beauty”) is excellent. The acting is excellent by the entire cast. Michael Berry (who also co-wrote the screenplay and appears in the film as an actor) does a great job directing his first feature film. This film rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2014 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)