December 20, 2019 – This Columbian entry for best international film in the 92 Academy Awards is a brutal, gritty war drama that is reminiscent of William Golding's novel, “Lord of the Flies” and the film “Apocalypse Now” (which was re-released this year).
An isolated band of guerilla fighters descends into jealousy, murder and total chaos as discipline and order break down. The band of eight fighters, code named Monos are led by Wolf (played by Julian Giraldo). Members of the team are known only by their code names. Their contact with the larger army is called the Messenger (Wilson Salazar). He helps maintain discipline by ordering physical training drills when he visits the Monos camp, high on a cold, windy mountain range.
A local farmer lends the rebel army a milk cow to provide milk for Monos. The Messenger tells Monos that they must protect the cow, or locals will no longer support the rebels. Wolf and Lady (played by Karen Quintero) ask for permission from Messenger to become a romantic couple, and he grants permission. During the celebration of their union, Dog (played by Paul Cubides) accidently shoots the cow, and is punished by the group. Wolf, as team leader, feels responsible for the death of the cow and kills himself.
Wolf's demise slowly causes the team's unity and discipline to break down. Bigfoot (played by Moisés Arias) takes over as team leader and he begins to pull the team away from the central organization of the rebel army. After the embarrassing escape of an American hostage held by Monos, Doctora (played by American actress Julianne Nicholson) Bigfoot declares Monos to be an independent force.
Team members are severely punished for mistakes, or imprisoned, and those who try to escape are hunted down. Members of Monos commit murder. Chaos reigns. The film depicts a chilling descent into the heart of darkness. Some of this behavior seems to be happening because the members of Monos are very young, at least one of them appears to be a child. Another factor is a lack of discipline and the absence of a chain of command.
I had a hard time following the plot because character motivations seemed random. The group engaged in a lot of strange ceremonies that I am not familiar with, such as severely beating a person on his birthday. That certainly makes birthdays a lot less fun. Following the plot cloaked in an unfamiliar culture and language (the film is in Spanish with English subtitles) seemed harder than usual for me.
As the cohesiveness of the group falls apart, moral differences between team members becomes apparent. Some, like Bigfoot, are ruthless, while others, like Rambo (played by Sofía Buenaventura) are clearly not comfortable with the inhumane treatment of people.
Rambo is much like the character Ralph in “Lord of the Flies.” He escapes from the group and is hunted. Another image in the film that reminded me of “Lord of the Flies” is the severed head of a pig, covered with flies, which is exactly the same as the central symbol of evil and chaos in William Golding's novel. This film rates a B.
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