Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Movie Review: "Cartel Land" (2015)

Image Source
Movie"Cartel Land"
Director: Matthew Heineman
Year: 2015
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

An exploration of two different vigilante groups in Mexico and the U.S., formed in order to combat cartel activity in each country.

Nominated for best documentary feature at this year's Academy Awards, "Cartel Land" is a sobering look into the violence inflicted by drug cartels in Mexico upon private citizens, as well as the people's eventual forceful response. Let us warn you right off the bat: there is a lot of disturbing imagery in this documentary, including people being hung, decapitated heads, and other dead bodies and parts all explicitly displayed to fully showcase the horrors these cartels inflict upon those who get in their way. There are also many unsettling stories of despicable acts performed by the cartels upon innocent families of Michoacán, Mexico, so viewer discretion is definitely advised. The main focus of this documentary is on a Mexican militia known as 'Grupo de Autodefensia.' This group is made up of private citizens and is led by Dr. José Mireles, who took up arms against the Knights Templar Cartel and in an attempt to drive them out of Michoacán. On the U.S. side, another group of vigilantes known as the 'Arizona Border Recon' handle what they view as a crisis on our side of the border. Despite some of its members having clearly racist, eyebrow raising points of views and others looking like weekend warriors clad in camouflage carrying around military-grade rifles, the Arizona Border Recon takes a much more muted 'observe and report' approach to the cartel problem compared to, say, the Minutemen. However, in Mexico, Grupo de Autodefensia uses violence and runs raids on homes to find cartel members, often driving them out of the towns they seek to inhabit. As much as we are conditioned to cheer for vigilante justice in popular culture by comic book movies and the like, things like this don't always go as well when implemented in real life. As Grupo de Autodefensia begins to grow, it starts to morph into the very thing it was meant to protect the people from, and that's another cartel. This is the risk of all vigilante groups.

It baffles us on a basic human level and it's hard for us to reconcile in our heads how there are people out there that could treat their fellow human beings in the ways described in this documentary. That kind of blatant disregard for human life all to gain things like drugs or money goes far beyond our comprehension. It's stark, and it's bloody, and it's wrong. We live relatively close to the border, and though we know these cartel wars go on on the regular, it's hard to say we can't understand how people are so cruel to each other when we're "safe" in our suburban neighborhood. In the end, "Cartel Land" offers a harsh, but well made look at the reality of a terrible situation. It's one of those films you'll probably never be able to watch again, but will be glad you took this chance to familiarize yourself with it in the first place as this is an issue important in relation to the country that we live in, the politics we vote on, the people we potentially know, and the lives we lead.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "Two Days, One Night"

No comments:

Post a Comment