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Monos: boys n the blood

Powerful film that focuses on child soldiers draws inevitable comparisons with Lord Of The Flies

24 October, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Original and consuming: Monos

MONOS
Directed by Alejandro Landes
Certificate 15
☆☆☆☆

THE scourge of children being forced to become soldiers provides the focus of this original and consuming film.

Young people, kidnapped, indoctrinated and made to bear arms against their will is a global problem of almost unimaginably nasty proportions – and Monos director Alejandro Landes has created a story that reveals the insanity of such a situation.

We meet a rebel group – who sport names like Rambo, Smurf, Bigfoot, Boom-Boom, Wolf, Lady – as they eke out a life in an abandoned concrete edifice on a rain-swept, exposed mountainside.

A messenger arrives at intervals to maintain discipline, give supplies and bark orders: one such visit leaves them with the task of minding a cow called Shakira, which has been “borrowed” from a nearby village to provide them with milk.

As well as caring for a cow, they also have a prisoner to look after. “Doctora” (Julianne Nicholson) is their captive, and they are charged with making sure she is kept alive – and doesn’t escape.

Her welfare is the cause of some conflict and confusion – confusion that gets worse after an accident befalls the party which could lead to court martials and violent “justice” being meted out to them.

After a vicious fire fight near their eyrie brings in wounded troops, they are told they must move on – and as they do, their mission begins to further disintegrate.

The location is never made clear, but this is a South American country where rebels are fighting a government. Landes says he was inspired by the civil war in Colombia: he has watched the war being fought on different fronts, fought between paramilitaries and guerillas, the government and Narco-gangs and added to the mix, the spectre of foreign countries intervening.

With a peace deal signed by the government and FARC, considering the devastating effects of war on the nation is at the forefront of Landes’s mind.

There are inevitable comparisons to Lord Of The Flies: from the butchering of an animal and the covering of bodies with war paint through to the simple premise of young people placed in an impossible situation in a remote and unforgiving environment.

And the surroundings are carefully drawn to show the hardships they face.

The relentless rain – at first on the peaks of a mountain top home, then in the chaotic greenery of a jungle camp – provides a background, as does the punitive justice dished out collectively when one of their number deviates.

Left to their own devices – except for the occasional visit by the mysterious “Messenger” sent by the “Organisation” they are part of – means following orders through the small group’s teenage leader.

Conflict is never far away, and it is conflict that has a machete in one hand, an automatic rifle in the other, and an inability to recognise reason due to the extreme environment and war-like state they live in.

This is a great piece of storytelling, offering a personalised, individual insight into the lives of young people who have had their humanity ripped from them by adults using them for their own political ends.

Powerful, tense storytelling with fantastic performances across the board.

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