Friday, January 25, 2019

Sin Nombre

Written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, Sin Nombre (Nameless) is the story of a young Honduran woman trying to immigrate to America as she meets a gang member at the Mexican-Guatemalan border who is on the run after a botched robbery had gone wrong. The film is a dramatic-adventure film where a group of people from Central America trying to reach America amidst a trail of gang violence as they all try to reach a new beginning in a new world. Starring Edgar Flores, Kristyan Ferrer, and Paulina Gaitan. Sin Nombre is a riveting yet somber film from Cary Joji Fukunaga.

A young Honduran woman joins her father and uncle as they ride a train through Central America and Mexico hoping to reach America with many others where they encounter a young gang member who had just killed his own leader during a botched robbery as he’s being pursued by his former gang. It’s a film that play into a couple of young individuals reaching towards America in the hope they can start anew yet one of them is aware that there’s a price on his head as he’s just trying to survive and help this young woman reach America. Cary Joji Fukunaga’s script opens with the differing lives of its two main protagonists in the young gangster Willy aka El Casper (Edgar Flores) and the young Honduran woman Sayra (Paulina Gaitan) as the latter is a young woman who feels like she’s got nowhere to do in Tegucigalpa while the former is dealing with being part of a gang as questions about his loyalty come into question due to his love for a young woman in Martha Marlene (Diana Garcia).

The first act does play into Willy’s gangster life as he gets a young boy in Benito aka El Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer) to join the Mara Salvatrucha gang as their turf leader in Lil Mago (Tenoch Huerta Mejia) is starting question Willy’s loyalty as they cover the turf at the small town of Tapachula near the Mexican-Guatemalan border where many immigrants are at the train station waiting for the train to arrive. Due to Willy’s outside activities from the gang, he is ordered by Lil Mago to join him and El Smiley for a ride on the train to rob a few immigrants where it goes wrong due to Willy’s emotional state as it relates to actions by Lil Mago. El Smiley would return to Tapachula where he is given the task to hunt and kill Willy in order to prove himself where he would get help from other members of the Mara Salvatrucha in different parts of Mexico. While on the train, Willy befriends Sayra as she is hoping to go to New Jersey where her father’s family is living in as she copes with the travel but also sense of unknown that happens in the journey.

Fukunaga’s direction is mesmerizing for its approach to realism as well as creating a world where many are trying to reach America knowing that it is a journey is a long and arduous one. Shot largely on location in Mexico City as well as various locations in Mexico, the film does play into a world that is dangerous and with a lot of uncertainty with the locations showing what many from Central America will do to reach America as a place of hope. Fukunaga’s usage of the wide shots get a great look at the landscape, mountains, and valleys in Mexico as well as the rivers that play into its beauty with the usage of medium shots and close-ups to focus on the characters with Fukunaga using hand-held cameras. Fukunaga would shoot scenes on top of the train to get a scope of what these people have to do but also play into the sense of danger as they know when to step out and not be seen by border guards. There is also this air of prejudice in Mexico where a group of migrants are being pelted with rocks by young kids who despise immigrants.

Fukunaga also goes deep into the world of gangs such as the rivalry that goes on where it’s very violent and dangerous with the young El Smiley realizes what he must do where he would befriend another turf leader who is much kinder to him than the ones at his home turf. The suspense is low-key as it relates to the situation that Willy is in as he knows he’s being hunted as he has a few that can help him but only temporarily. Even as he does what he can to help Sayra to reach the border as it add to this uncertainty about what will happen as well as the fact that Willy is running out of time. Overall, Fukunaga crafts a gripping yet evocative film about a young gang member helping a young Honduran reach America amidst the violent gang culture of Mexico.

Cinematographer Adriano Goldman does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural lighting for many of the exteriors in the day and night as well as some stylish lights for some of the interior settings in the film. Editors Luis Carballar and Craig McKay do excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense. Production designer Claudio Contreras, with set decorator Aida Rodriguez and art director Carlos Benassini, does fantastic work with the look of some of the homes that the characters live in as well as the base of some of the gang members frequent at. Costume designer Leticia Palacios does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward including some of the baggy pants and t-shirts the gang members wear.

Makeup designer Alfredo Garcia and hair/makeup designer Carla Tinoco do amazing work with the look and design of the tattoos for many of the gang members to sport to show their allegiance to the gang they’re in. Sound editors Allan Fung, Mark Gingras, and John Laing do superb work with the sound as it showcase how a train sounds from afar as well as the sounds of gunfire and other sounds from a location. The film’s music by Marcelo Zarvos is wonderful for its low-key music score that features elements of folk and ambient music while music supervisor Lynn Fainchtein create a soundtrack that mixes score pieces by Clint Mansell and Nick Cave & Warren Ellis as well as a mixture of music ranging from hip-hop to traditional Mexican music.

The casting by Carla Hool and Alejandro Reza is terrific as it feature some notable small roles from Guillermo Villegas’ as Sayra’s uncle Orlando, Gerardo Taracena as Sayra’s father Horacio, Luis Fernando Pena as Lil Mago’s second-in-command El Sol, Hector Jiminez as a coyote named Leche, Diana Garcia as Willy’s girlfriend Martha Marlene who becomes concerned about Willy’s lifestyle in the gang world, and Tenoch Huerta Mejia as a turf gang leader in Lil Mago who starts to question Willy’s loyalty as well as be the cause for Willy to betray him. Kristyan Ferrer is excellent as Benito aka El Smiley as a young kid who joins the gang as he’s a friend of Willy where he is later tasked to hunt and kill him where he gets a closer look to the world of the gang lifestyle as he becomes determined to prove himself among his elders.

Paulina Gaitan is brilliant as Sayra as a young Honduran woman who is eager to go to America for a new life as she deals with the journey along with the world of violence and uncertainty where she would befriend Willy whom she becomes fascinated by. Finally, there’s Edgar Flores in an amazing performance as Willy aka El Casper as a young gang member who goes on the run following a botched robbery as he reluctantly helps Sayra as they evade other factions of his gang hunting for him where he also reveals what to expect in America in both the good and the bad.

Sin Nombre is a phenomenal film from Cary Joji Fukunaga. With its ensemble cast, realistic setting, gorgeous cinematography, and story of hope and violence. It’s a film that play into two people trying to reach America for a new beginning with one of them wanting to escape the world of gang violence that he had been a part of as well as being on the hunt for leaving that world behind. In the end, Sin Nombre is a sensational film from Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Cary Joji Fukunaga Films: Jane Eyre (2011 film) - (Beasts of No Nation) - No Time to Die

© thevoid99 2019


Dell said...

This movie is severely underrated and underseen. So glad you liked this one. And yeah, the cinematography is amazing.

keith71_98 said...

I saw this several years ago and remember it leaving a mark on me. Really liked it.