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Teenage commandos perform military training exercises by day and indulge in youthful hedonism by night, an unconventional family bound together under a shadowy force know only as The Organization. After an ambush drives the squadron into the jungle, both the mission and the intricate bonds between the group begin to disintegrate.
"Monos" (2019 release from Colombia; 102 min.) brings the story of a squadron of 8 teenage rebels and their American hostage. As the movie opens, we see the 8 teenagers, all aged around 15-16 but armed to the teeth, staying in shape in a remote Colombian mountain area. We find out they are part of "the Organization" and their task is to guard and watch over an American hostage, a woman they call "the doctora". The squadron receive a milk cow from an anonymous contributor but then, in a wild celebration one night, the cow is accidentally shot and killed... At this point we are 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this movie is directed/co-written/co-produced by Alejandro Landes, whom I was previously not familiar with, but for whom I have gained immediate respect with this film. One can't help but think that the otherwise unnamed rebel group called the "Organization" stands for the notorious FARC. But that isn't even the main point of the movie (for me anyway). The movie examines how this life of military rebellion affects the lives of 8 teenagers who are tasked with guarding an American hostage (reminding us vaguely of "Lord of the Flies"). The movie is plot-heavy so you'll have to forgive me that I don't provide further plot details. I will say this: the movie is tense from the get-go, and never lets up. In fact, the movie becomes heavier and weirder (in the best possible way) as it goes on, and I found it to be a great viewing experience that couldn't be further from Hollywood's never-ending stream of comic book super heroes adaptations ("Joker" being the latest) and other such prequels and sequels and "reimaginations". "Monos" on the other hand is fresh and original. The movie features for us American viewers a no-name cast that is just outstanding. And wait until you see the vast landscapes of Colombia's mountainous terrains and dense rain forest!
"Monos" premiered at this year's Sundance film festival to immediate critical acclaim and is now making the rounds in limited theater release. "Monos" finally opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati this weekend, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended so-so (9 people, to be exact), but hopefully this movie will find a larger audience as it gets released on additional platforms. There is a reason this movie is currently certified 91% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes! If you are in the mood for a top notch foreign release that is as intense as it is captivating, I'd readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater (if you still can), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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