Monos is an announcement by Director Alejandro Lames, he has arrived on the world stage and is here to stay. The London Film Festival winner, and official Columbian selection for the Oscars, is an arrestingly gripping film that entices you with stunning visuals and unique storytelling right from the very first frame. The film follows a secluded group of child soldiers known by various noms de guerre such as Rambo, Bigfoot, Boom Boom, and Smurf hiding away together in the mountains, protecting an American Prisoner for a shadowy rebel group called the Organisation. They follow strange rituals and rules, enforced in regular visits by a man simply known as “The Messenger”. After a sudden ambush, they are forced to flee into the jungle where things begin to unravel and the group begins to tear at the seams.
The performances by the young cast are incredible and tie the film together. Moises Arias is the only real known name of the young soldiers as Bigfoot and his intensity is alarming – long gone are the days of Hannah Montana. Alongside his role in Ender’s Game he is beginning to show a real dramatic ability and capacity for playing utterly ruthless and unlikable characters brilliantly. When showing off their various animalistic rituals Arias is almost always stealing the show with his aforementioned intensity and complete commitment.
Alongside Arias in portraying the Monos are various actors with almost no experience of film acting, some of whom with no experience of acting whatsoever. This points to the skill of Lames as a director as he draws outstanding performances out of all of them. Rambo (Sofia Buenaventura) in particular is the real star of the movie. As the movie progresses you find yourself rooting for Rambo more and more, being the only real character with any remaining remorse that has not been beaten out by the Organisation. Buenaventura plays this beautifully, with a fantastically subtle performance and one of the best moments throughout right at the end.
Mica Levi’s score too plays a key role within this film. In climactic scenes, or when anticipation is building, Levi’s score just raises your anxiety and leaves you totally on edge. There is one specific musical cue she uses throughout which is fantastic, and the repetition builds just causes your anticipation to build to an eventual climax. This goes hand in hand with outstanding editing. Landes comes from a documentary background and you can really tell in the editing of the film. He builds the anxiety within the story perfectly, maintaining a fast and frenetic pace throughout. This is relieved however with perfectly placed moments of levity sprinkled throughout the film. A slow-motion shot of a serene moment, a glimpse into the more normal aspects of their lives, Landes seems to know exactly when to give the audience a momentary break before plowing onwards again.
Monos is a spectacular triumph. The acting is visceral and arguably award-worthy, the score is magnificent, and I have not even mentioned the utterly stunning visuals obvious to anyone who has seen even a frame of this film. Landes has hit it out of the park, and despite Monos being available only on a limited release I would implore you to find a way to watch this in cinemas. If you are not able to make it, I’m sure that more screenings will be popping up come awards season.
5/5 Stars ★★★★★