Laura dreams of one day becoming Miss Baja California and after years of being too timid to actually try out, she decides that this year she is finally going to do it. Taking along a friend with her to the audition, both girls make it through the first round and while celebrating later that night, Laura gets caught up in a nightclub massacre. Through a series of events, Laura gets mixed up with the local drug cartel and is forced to do extraordinary things in an attempt to stay alive and keep her family from being killed. The deeper she goes, the more dangerous it becomes, however inversely, the closer she also gets to fulfilling her dream of becoming Miss Baja California.
At the heart of “Miss Bala” is a morality tale about the dangers of beauty pageants…..sorry, that was a joke. The film is really a look at the drug war that exists today in Mexico and the everyday threat of violence on the common people this war causes. It is also looks at the shocking amount of corruption amongst the people who are meant to be protecting the normal citizens of Mexico.
The extraordinary thing about the film is that Laura does everything these criminals tell her because she knows that life means nothing to them. She is just a tool, a means to an end, and if she dies while trafficking ammunition over the border for them, so be it, they will just find someone else to replace her. I feel I have been brought up on too many Hollywood films because I kept waiting for Laura to be pushed too far and having her snap and fight back and take on the drug cartels herself. However this is not that film, this is reality and Laura just continues to do what she is told in an effort to just survive.
The performance from Stephanie Sigman is supreme as we watch this once bubbly girl being brought down and further down as she is constantly degraded until she is a shell of her former self to the point that she would barely recognize herself in the mirror. Throughout the entire ordeal she must keep her wits about her because one mistake could see her doom, but there is never any doubt of the fear that is constantly behind her eyes. She knows that after this ordeal, if she survives, that life will never be the same and by the end of the film we are devastated for her.
My main problem I had with the film was the increasingly high demands the drug cartel puts on Laura and how much their plans revolve around her being successful in the tasks she has been given to do. To me the film became more and more implausible as it went along and thus lost a sense of reality. However since seeing the film I have learnt that it was loosely based on a real story, so perhaps it really is this bad and these details are true, but it doesn’t change the fact that while watching the film I didn’t believe the fact that a drug cartel would risk such a huge task on a terrified girl who is not familiar with the dangers of this world.
At the end of the day “Miss Bala” is still a dramatically powerful film, sadly there are no happy endings here, and it is very sad to think that this kind of violence or threat of violence exists on an everyday level for the citizens of Mexico. Also with the amount of money the drug trade brings in per year, it is unlikely it will ever change either.