Review: Trapped And On The Run In The ‘Desierto’

Genre: Drama | Thriller Directed by: Jonas Cuaron Starring: Jeffery Dean Morgan, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alondra Hidalgo Written by: Jonas Cuaron, Mateo Garcia
Genre: Drama | Thriller
Directed by: Jonas Cuaron
Starring: Jeffery Dean Morgan, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alondra Hidalgo
Written by: Jonas Cuaron, Mateo Garcia

Synopsis: A group of people crossing the border are terrorized by a savage man.

The desert doesn’t seem like a place that would induce a trapped and suffocating feeling of claustrophobia, but in Desierto that feeling rings true. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays an exterminator of immigrants attempting to cross the border. The plot centers on a group of Mexican immigrants trying to cross over into America, but a dangerous loose cannon takes it upon himself to stop them from crossing over.


This is an in-your-face kinda movie. Dean Morgan’s character Sam is ruthless killer with a major lack of any sensibility. In a way he’s terrifying and imposing. It’s easy to root against him. The violence isn’t as gory as it is startling. This is a scary character on the surface.

Stone cold killer
Stone cold killer

The action gets going fairly quickly, or should I say the target practice. Director Jonas Cuaron does nice work by keeping the tension high through majority of the movie. The stakes are high, these people are running like for their lives (no pun intended). It’s very animalistic and predatorily vibe.

As intimidating and scary as Sam is, the desert is that much scarier. The desert is the best character in the movie, thanks to the fantastic visuals from cinematographer Damian Garcia. The isolation, bleakness and stillness of the desert is chilling. There is a scene where one of the character is hiding in the bushes, only to discover a group of snakes surrounding them. Scenes like that illustrate the dangers and terrors that lie in the desert aside from the guy with the rifle shooting at everyone. Not to omit the excellent camera work. One particular shot to look out for is a long shot where two characters are scaling down a rock.


As imposing as they made Sam to be, the biggest issue was that the characters motives were never explained. Why was he shooting those people? Was it some sick target practice? Did he have an agenda against Mexicans? Was his life altered due to someone running for the border? Is he just a racists? Without a noted motive, it just looks insignificant and thoughtless.

On the run constantly
On the run constantly

While the movie is intense, there isn’t much to the plot besides the predator-prey concept. Shoot, run, hide–repeat. Granted it’s the desert, but where are the authorities in all of this. Border patrol anyone? When the desert and dog are your most compelling characters, you’re not missing out on some character development.


The movie is what you expect it to be from the trailers. It has solid tension and intensity, but lacks an overall story arch and plot development. The plot is as basic as it gets. The hero of the film, Moises (Gael Garcia Bernal), isn’t overly likable or memorable character. You are forced to root for him based on the circumstances, not because the character is rewarding the viewer for their investment. The acting is average, and the storyline is flat. The desert is scary, but it’s merely because of the desert itself and not any of the characters that were lost in it.

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 27 min 

Release Date: October 14, 2016

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  • Acting - 5/10
  • Cinematography - 8.5/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 4/10
  • Setting/Theme - 6/10
  • Buyability - 7/10
  • Recyclability - 4/10
  • Fun/Entertainment - 5/10

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About Jim Alexander

When it boils down to it, Jim's passion is entertainment. Aside from being an avid sports fan, that follows all things NFL, NBA, and Soccer. He currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago. At the core of his interests...movies! Whether trying to catch the newest flick coming out this weekend, or the latest On Demand release, to heated debates with his friends and colleagues about the most recent "Box Office Blunder". The passion for movies lies deep within him. When he isn't writing, he immerses himself in his other interests; Acting and Radio Broadcasting. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimRko.

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