Review: Monos

Monos Screenshot

On a remote mountaintop, eight kids with guns watch over a hostage and a conscripted milk cow.

Being a teenager can be hard. You get those first feelings of love, doubts, and insecurity and there’s the undeniable body change. However, we’re pretty sure that your teenage years weren’t as bad as the ones the Monos, a group of young kids, have to go through. Instead of playing football and partying, they’re being turned into warriors far away from human society somewhere in Colombia. Their stories are now being told in the latest work of Alejandro Landes (Porfirio, Cocalero). The storyline of Monos might not be everyone’s cup of tea but the striking cinematography, great soundtrack and uniqueness make this movie one you can’t miss.

Rebellious teenagers

Some details will never become clear in Monos such as who the characters really are and where their fights are taking place. However, there are so many wonderful elements to discover in the storyline of the movie. Numerous young fighters are preparing themselves both mentally and physically for the hard time that awaits them. The location is unknown and so are the real names of our young protagonists. Instead, they’ve been given nicknames such as Boom Boom (Sneider Castro), Smurf (Deiby Rueda), Lady (Karen Quintero), Swede (Laura Castrillón), Wolf (Julian Giraldo), Dog (Paul Cubides), and Bigfoot (Moises Arias). They’re driven by “The Organization” with their messenger (Wilson Salazar) as the only link with the outside world. Their tasks are simple: protecting a dairy cow named Shakira and ensuring that the American hostage Doctora Sara Watson (Julianne Nicholson) does not escape.

Those tasks don’t seem to go as easy as the teenagers thought. This leads to doubts about love, friendship, their purposes, many disagreements, frustration, anger and difficult and hard time. The fact that they’re right in their puberty doesn’t help at all. Will they be able to cope with these many changes in a civilized, human and peaceful manner or will they solve it in the way they also do: violently, ruthless and furiously?

Award-winning cinematography

While watching Monos, you will face many questions. You are probably going to ask yourself things like: where do those kids come from, have they been “working” for The Organization their entire lives or is this what happens to young people when you raise them with weapons and military training instead of love and tenderness? We wouldn’t be surprised if films like Lord of the Flies and Apocalypse Now would pop into your mind but don’t expect Monos to be just a homage to those movies. No, this film from Landes has many unique components.

The main reason for its uniqueness is without a doubt the sublime camera work of Jasper Wolf (Open Seas, Broers). He stunningly brings out the wilderness and the remoteness of the landscape that’s untouched by modern society. The beautifully and vividly shot scenes have an even bigger, more enduring and fascinating impact because of the slow paste of the film. You will be able to enjoy this greatness of nature every single time and especially when Wolf uses those long and panoramic shots. That he’s an immensely skilled and versatile cameraman is shown in his use of extreme close-up shot scenes or scenes that are deliberately out of focus. Because of this, we can feel the alienation and dehumanisation of young children. Monos is certainly not shy of showing sex, violence, and blood. The cinematography of Wolf is why you should watch this movie on the biggest screen possible as it has an undeniable impact on the movie and on you. It’s no wonder Wolf already won the award for Best Cinematography during the Newport Beach Film Festival earlier this year.

The most outstanding work of Mica Levi

(L-R) Composer Mica Levi and director Alejandro Landes pose at the “Monos” photocall during the 69th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin (Photo by Brian Dowling/WireImage)

Mica Levi already made furore with her astonishing score for Jackie so it’s no surprise that director Landes wanted to work with her on Monos. The dark and mysterious vibe created and the questions raised by the cinematography of Wolf become even darker, dreamier and more confusing thanks to Levi’s outstanding music. Her work was already awarded for its originality multiple times and it’s incredible understandable why. It brings such a bombastic, thunderous and enigmatic effect to the film and while Monos is a very slow movie, her score will keep you awake without a doubt. Roaring, impactful and emotional. A score doesn’t have to be more than that.

An unknown cast with great talent

While there’s a place for violence and war, Monos is mostly about the emotional and psychological journey the teenagers have to go through. To pull this off beautifully you need a strong cast and that’s exactly what the casting team gave to director Landes. It’s unbelievable that most of the young cast such as Sofia Buenaventura (Rambo), Rueda (Pitufo), Cubides (Perro) and Castro (Boom Boom) make their film debut in this movie as they all put on an incredibly strong performance. You will also see more well-known talent in Monos such as Nicholson (I, Tonya, August: Osage County) who portrays the most complex character of this movie in a gripping, emotional and intriguing way.

Made for the biggest screen possible!

Monos already won 23 awards during its festival run, of which most of them were for the film itself. The movie might not be everyone’s taste but it’s clear that it’s loved and praised by both public and critics. Not only for its mysterious vibe but also for the perplexing and unique way universal topics such as love, friendship but also anger and violence are being handled. The overall cast amazes from start to finish thanks to the chemistry, stunning acting performances, and captivating charisma. Add the exceptional score from Levi and eye-catching, energetic and baffling cinematography from Wolf and you know that you will see a stunning and potential Academy Award-winning film. One you should watch on the big screen when it’s released on the 25th of October in the UK.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Monos (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Waiting For The Barbarians (Review)

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