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600 Miles
aka - 600 Millas
Mexico/USA 2014
Directed by Gabriel Ripstein
Running time 85 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Although if you were summarizing its plot 600 Miles would appear to be a standard issue drug war film, director and co-writer Gabriel Ripstein’s attention is as much on how that story is being told as on what it tells of.

For the first third of the film we follow two young men, Carson (Harrison Thomas) and Arnulfo (Kristyan Ferrer) in a pick-up truck as they drive around Arizona gun retailers buying waepons that are to be smuggled across the border from Arizona to Mexico for a drug cartel.  Then when an ATF agent (Tim Roth) tries to bust them he ends up being taken prisoner by Arnulfo who in a panic decides to take him back to Mexico where things turn nasty. 

Minimising the devices typical of the crime genre and adopting a quasi-documentary style  Ripstein shapes the story largely through editing, with for the first third of the film, little-to-no explanation of what is going on.  One is reminded of films such as Gus Van Sant’s 2003 film, Elephant, as we watch the two young men buying and smuggling significant quantities of firearms with surprising ease.  Indeed, when Roth’s agent pulls a gun on Arnulfo it feels like an incongruously conventional moment.  But even here the plot turnaround happens off-camera and there are none of the usual crowd-pleasing stunts, Ripstein resuming his laconic approach until a short and sharp exchange of gunfire later in the film turns the table yet again before a delicious coda adds depth to what has gone before.

Roth, as we know, is an actor of quiet intensity and he doesn’t disappoint here but Ferrer does a fine job as his much younger co-star in what is, at least in an oblique way, is a credible coming-of-age story.

Ripstein and co-writer Issa López have fashioned an intentionally understated film that rewards as much in the leanness of its execution as it does in the unfolding of its economical narrative.

Available from: Madman

 

 

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