Miss Bala tells the story of Laura Guerrero (played by Stephanie Sigman), who dreams of becoming a beauty contest queen in a Mexico dominated by organized crime.
I am not familiar with what life is like in Mexico, so it was very interesting to follow Laura as she is taken through the inner world of the Mexican drug cartels. There are some very cruel moments of violence and I found myself scared for this girl the whole time. Not to sound distasteful, but I was really scared that she was going to be raped. Any time a gangster with a machine gun comes up to Laura, I was thinking, “He can totally do it right now. There’s nothing stopping him!” When she’s not being threatened sexually, it was the possibility of her being shot to death. There are a few long take sequences in the film where Laura dodging crossfire in gun battle that puts you in the moment. We see how the violence and the corruption eventually weighs down on this girl, eventually corrupts her dream and sucks the living soul out of her.
However, Miss Bala commits the sin of choosing its message over its protagonist in its third act. Laura becomes progressively passive and ends up being an inactive character who simply observes and obeys the orders she’s given by the gangsters. Stephanie Sigman is a competent lead actress and carries the film but her character has no motivation from that point onwards. It builds to an open ending that I thought was too “open” for its own good. The film wants to present Laura as an innocent victim caught in the middle of all this turmoil, but I still think the victim angle can still be clear with her actively trying to accomplish a goal. It’s as if director Gerardo Naranjo thought it would be too much and settled on his presenting his message but the audience definitely was hungry for that extra mile. I’m sure that wasn’t Naranjo’s goal. That said, Miss Bala still gripped me for the first two thirds.
It’s a nice piece of “issue-tainment” nonetheless.