Monos, co-written and directed by Alejandro Landes, is a new Colombian war film that is packed with emotion and harrowing depictions of the horrors of war. Extremely hard-to-watch, but ultimately rewarding, this movie will surely be part of the discussion for Best International Feature come awards season.
The film follows a group of child soldiers as they are tasked with protecting a hostage and a milk cow from the enemy combatants that are slowly approaching. No one likes to think about child soldiers, but it is a horrible truth that this is still very much an issue in society today, particularly in third-world countries. This movie brings attention to that issue in a way that is thoroughly captivating and almost guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on those who see it.
Landes paces his film in a way that will keep your attention for the entirety of the runtime. The beginning of the movie is very much a slow burn, but the tension ramps up as the story progresses, ending in a fiery and intense climax that will leave you shaken to your core. Thanks to the constantly mounting anxiety which this pacing causes, the film is thoroughly captivating.
The movie is definitely quite emotionally resonant because of the dark reality associated with the plot and its depiction of child soldiers. In no way is this film meant to leave the audience feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Rather, the movie is meant to make people reevaluate their preconceived notions regarding the ethics of war. Seeing war through the eyes of children, who are typically innocent and not ruthless killers allows the audience to feel the full weight of the proceedings.
The only real shortcoming of the film is its character development. The movie falls victim to the issue that plagues most films with more than one protagonist: an inability to build the characters individually. A few of the characters have compelling arcs, but the movie is more focused on the group dynamic of the Monos.
Additionally, the actors all do a very good job in their roles. The biggest standout is Moises Arias, who plays Bigfoot, the loose cannon of the group. His performance is very intimidating and often hard-to-watch, often a driving factor in the film. Supporting actress Julianne Nicholson also gives a memorable turn, although her role in the movie is smaller than it could have been.
Visually, the film is absolutely phenomenal. The cinematography by Jasper Wolf is certainly among the best of the year. Early in the movie, the compositions are beautiful, showcasing some of the beauty of the setting. However, as the film becomes more and more horrifying, the imagery becomes equally disturbing and horrific, yet in a well-done and impactful way.
In many ways, Monos is a horrifying and affecting movie, but a very important one at that. Though this certainly isn’t a film that will be easy to stomach for anyone, it will hopefully start a discussion about how the world should change its perception of war.
Monos hits theaters on September 13.