A group of Latin American child soldiers who go by names like Rambo, Smurf and Dog. An American engineer known only as Doctora (Julianne Nicholson), whom they keep prisoner in ruins located on a remote, cloud-enshrouded mountain. And a milk cow they’ve received on loan from a local supporter of their rebel cause.
These are the unique ingredients of Monos, a hallucinatory and harrowing journey into a heart of darkness that stands as one of the year’s finest films.
Shot in Colombia but taking place in an unidentified region and during a mysterious conflict, Monos (in theaters Sept. 13) is a direct descendant of Apocalypse Now and Lord of the Flies, although to reduce it to merely a hybrid of those classics is to downplay its own distinctively trippy power. Directed by Alejandro Landes (who co-wrote the script with Alexis Dos Santos), it tells the story of Monos, a band of young male and female fighters that operates under the auspices of a larger Organization whose emissary, the Messenger (Wilson Salazar), is a little person with bulging muscles and a similarly formidable attitude. The Messenger’s arrival at Monos’ hillside outpost results in immediate physical training for the squad, which involves running in place with a fierce intensity that Landes captures in intense close-ups of his protagonists, as well as the delivery of the aforementioned cow, which the Messenger names Shakira and proclaims must be returned to its rightful owner, in due time, unharmed.