Toronto International Film Festival
TORONTO -- Uruguayan-born Rodrigo Pla makes a riveting directing debut with the Mexican film "La Zona," a frightening and violent tale of a divided society where a corrupt government chooses to sit on the sidelines. This only slightly fictionalized portrait of Mexican society is certainly bleak but as a dramatic thriller, where tension builds from the opening moments, "La Zona" signals another promising discovery in a film industry that is definitely coming into its own golden age.
Screenwriter Laura Santullo imagines an enclosed residential Zone, heavily patrolled and monitored by closed-circuit cameras, that traps its own well-do-do inhabitants in as much as its keeps disadvantaged and criminal elements out. Residents have secured "special status" from a judge that essentially turns all law and order inside the Zone over to its privileged members.
A storm and power outage allows three teens to break into the Zone to rob a house. Their murderous attack on a homeowner leads to a shootout in which two robbers are killed and an older resident accidentally shoots and kills a security guard. The community hides the bodies and stonewalls police even as its men form a posse to search for the third culprit.
Alejandro (Daniel Tovar), the teenage son of a mob leader, discovers the boy (Alan Chavez) in his family’s basement. Instead of turning him in, Alejandro develops sympathy for the terrified youth. As the Zone’s crisis grows and police scrutiny increases, Alejandro desperately tries to sneak the boy out of the Zone even as he comes to question the lynch-mob mentality of his father and neighbors.
Pla paints a devastating picture of community willing to sacrifice all liberties and social justice in the name of "security," a lawless situation that echoes such classic films as "Bad Day at Black Rock" and "The Ox Bow Incident."