Transpecos [2016]

Suspenseful and visually appealing, Transpecos is an effective slow-burner with an authentic story. When a movie opens with a murder by a giant pipe wrench you simply know it’s going to be good. After that, it gets deceptively easygoing, drawing you into the hazy atmosphere of the Chihuahuan Desert. The days are long, the heat is palpable and there’s nothing much to do. However, you simply know things are going to escalate at some point. I’ll leave it at that. The cinematography is simply gorgeous, very reminiscent of Roger Deakins movies Sicario, True Grit, and No Country for Old Men. And while we’re dropping names, I can’t help but mention Breaking Bad, especially since both stories are happening in New Mexico.

Transpecos follows three Border Patrol agents at the remote outpost during 24 hours. The dialogue felt real and authentic like you were watching a documentary about these guys. Gabriel Luna who finally landed his first big role three years later with Terminator: Dark Fate was compelling as agent Flores. And what to say about the man, the myth, the legend Clifton Collins Jr.? He added the much-needed gravitas and experience to the mix. That mix was completed with young and talented Johnny Simmons. The story is an above all hauntingly realistic and shines a light on problems not easily solved. There are a couple of melodramatic scenes that stand out simply because the rest of the movie is that good.

Scorching heat and lack of work enable veteran agent Flores to show the rookie Davis how to track people in the unforgiving sands of the desert. The two of them along with Lou Hobbs, are Border Patrol agents working on a remote part of the US-Mexico border. The road they’re controlling rarely sees any traffic and the same goes for today. However, the nature of their job is that you never know what might happen. And then exactly that happens.

There’s an old say that goes: War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. The same can be said about any law enforcement job. However, there’s more to Transpecos than this. It avoids the preachy and oftentimes pretentious approach to storytelling and remains firmly focused on the characters and the reality of the situation. It’s a fucked up world out there. Making the most of its setting, it drew not just from current issues but also history. These parts of the land have seen a lot and there’s a distinct western vibe present here. With a runtime of just eighty minutes, it’s a short, sweet, and atmospheric thriller. Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Transpecos check out Hell or High Water, The Hollow Point, and Desierto. And for those hankering for something darker I can’t recommend enough Bone Tomahawk. Enjoy.

Director: Greg Kwedar

Writers: Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar

Cast: Gabriel Luna, Clifton Collins Jr., Johnny Simmons, David Acord, Oscar Avila, Luis Bordonada, Will Brittain, Alex Knight

Fun Facts: During filming of the checkpoint scenes, temperatures on the asphalt reached 120 degrees.


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