This Columbian import has an air of harrowing controversy in its native land as it mostly depicts young primordial guerrillas in an oddly bracing way.
A disturbing, if riveting Monos (many in Spanish with English subtitles) comes ex-reporter, Brazilian-born Alejandro Landes who draws from the likes of The Revenant, Apocalypse Now, and especially Lord of the Flies from author William Golding with plenty of high-tech firepower.
An unspecified South American country’s distant mountain lair holds teens trained as young co-ed soldiers — known by nicknames like Bigfoot, Boom Boom, Dog, Wolf, Smurf, and Rambo. A captive of theirs is ‘Doctora’ (Julianne Nicholson) a U.S. engineer as they are beholden to “The Organization.”
Every so often The Messenger, a sinewy, if diminutive fellow played by Wilson Salazar with stentorian presence checks up on them as their commander. Nary any background of their situation is given that will turn more volatile after Shakira the cow is given to them for nutritional purposes. Being away from adult/parental supervision has them indulging, but to the extent that causes a schism among the predominantly shrilly evinced characters. The proceedings become more amped up as the topography changes to a jungle setting.
These are people that aren’t the kind that most would want to get to know very well as for many there is a predilection to violence and intimacy. Nicholson has an attractive tenacity about her, illusory in one respect, anyway. Moises Arias, as an intense Bigfoot, provides a distinctive counterpoint to a goofy, likable presence in the winsome low-budgeter The Kings of Summer.
While Landes (a co-scenarist here) might be a little nebulous in his choices especially for certain discerning art-house patrons , there is much to boast about how mood and allegory combine to provide an immersive, provocative experience. Especially in his work with lensing pro Jasper Wolf using Chingaza National Park in Columbia that realizes striking images from the environs, including water rapids. And, notably the sonic treatment by Mica Levin (Jackie) whether creating subtle dissonance from nature or more emphatic thrusts from a timpani is quite an assist in making Monos mighty impactful.