September 18, 2012

Colosio: El Asesinato (2012)

March the 23rd, 1994, the presidential candidate from the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party), Luis Donaldo Colosio, leads a campaign rally in the neighborhood of Lomas Taurinas, in the city of Tijuana. Colosio finishes his speech and steps down the stage, walking through the multitude of followers who cheer him towards the vehicle that would take him to another event. As he walks, a man gets close with a gun and shoots him in the head. Moments later, Colosio would receive a two more shots in the middle of the chaos, and later he would die in the hospital from the wounds. Colosio's assassination would leave a profound mark in Mexicos' political history, as it left multiple doubts about the identity of those who were behind the candidate's death. While the official version determined that the killing was the work of a lone shooter, the theory of a conspiracy within the Party has always been in the mind of the public. And this theory becomes the basis for a movie directed by filmmaker Carlos Bolado, who tackles the killing at Lomas Taurinas in "Colosio: El Asesinato".

Set in 1994, "Colosio: El Asesinato" (literally "Colosio: The Assassination") begins with the news of the death of the presidential candidate (Enoc Leaño) at Lomas Taurinas, seen on TV by agent Andrés Vázquez (José María Yazpik) and his family. As the official investigation begins, the President (Nando Estevané), through his adviser "the Doctor" (Daniel Giménez Cacho), orders a secret inquiry, running parallel to the official one but specifically aimed to find the intellectual authors of the crime. Andrés is called to lead the operation under the orders of the Licenciate (Odiseo Bichir), to whom he reports the result of the investigation. Andrés gathers his most trusted agents and begin to do research on those close to Colosio's presidential campaign, while in Tijuana, the local chief of police, Benítez (Dagoberto Gama) coordinates his operation with Andres' team. However, things are complicated when a mysterious assassin is killing all the suspects that Andres and Benítez are identifying. Someone doesn't want the truth regarding Colosio's assassination to be known.

Written by Hugo Rodríguez, Miguel Necoechea and director Carlos Bolado himself, "Colosio: El Asesinato" is a political thriller that details on one side the police work of investigation done by Andrés and Benítez around the crime, and on the other unfolds the complex net of secret alliances that run behind the scenes in Mexican politics. While the movie declares initially that the story is a work of fiction, the screenplay of "Colosio: El Asesinato" includes characters clearly based on the real protagonists of Mexican politics of the time and, with certain historical liberties, builds up its plot following the popular conspiracy theory in a way similar to Oliver Stone's "JFK". Beyond the politics, it's interesting the agile way in which Rodríguez, Necoechea and Bolado construct their plot with the goal of keeping the action flowing smoothly without leaving aside their harsh criticism against the Partido Revolucionario Institucional. Nevertheless, there are certain elements that aren't that well done, like the romantic side story, which feels out of place in the film.

The work of directing done by Carlos Bolado is effective and dynamic, moving through the different narratives without problems and showing a skilled use of devices such as montage sequences and flashbacks.In general, the visual narrative that Bolado employs is appropriate and his greatest achievement is the creation of an ominous atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that grows through the film as Andrés' investigation makes progress. Carefully, Bolado builds up the sensation of paranoia that begins to surround Andrés and his team as their work takes them to the inner circles of politics. The work of cinematography done by Andrés León Becker is traditional but effective, using a specific atmosphere for each location in the investigation, though everyone, from the arid desert of Tijuana to the cold walls of the Government's offices, have in common the feeling of desolation. It's worth to point out the work of Sandra Cabriada as production designer, managing to recreate the period of the film with accuracy and verisimilitude.

Leading the cast, actor José María Yazpik makes a good job as agent Andrés, evoking with ease the self-confidence and professionalism of his role. While Yazpik has a somewhat limited range, in the role of Andrés he finds a character that allows him to truly exploit his talent and screen presence. And while the movie has in Yazpik a defined protagonist, the film's plot allows the rest of the secondary characters to have their moment to shine. Fortunately, the cast makes the best of this and deliver excellent performances in the supporting roles. This is particularly note worthy in the case of Dagoberto Gama, whom makes a terrific job as the lonely Benítez, and Daniel Giménez Cacho, truly excellent as the Doctor (thinly veiled portrait of José María Córdoba Montoya), the Machiavellian presidential adviser. Giménez Cacho's acting shines in its restrained intensity, which leaves mark of his sinister presence even when he is not on screen. Without a doubt, the best acting in the film.

There are also pretty good performances by Tenoch Huerta, Luis Ernesto Franco and Karina Gidi, who play the agents working in Andrés' team (Gidi in particular is remarkable). However, there are unfortunately two performances of bad quality that diminish the strength of the film. The first is Odiseo Bichir's work, who results too stagy in his performance as the Licenciate, looking artificial and out of place given the tone of the film. Kate del Castillo is the other one, lacking screen presence in her role as Yazpik's wife and leaving her character like a side note. Nevertheless, in her case it certainly matters that her character is too underdeveloped, limiting her to represent the role of a wife forgotten by an Andrés too absorbed by his work. And this is a problem in the film, as at times it gets lost in its many subplots and leaves more than once without too much development. Also, the film falls in the big problem of conspiracy theory stories (specially those based on real life events): its argument tends to force a bit too much the common sense and the suspension of disbelief.

Nevertheless, it's commendable that director Carlos Bolado manages to create an atmosphere of paranoia so strong that those flaws do not stop the enjoyment of the movie. "Colosio: El Asesinato" may not become a classic of the genre, however, it results a very well done film that dares to touch a subject that mainstream Mexican cinema had not tackled before (in independent cinema there is the low budget "Magnicidio. Complot en Lomas Taurinas" done in 2002). Despite its problems, Carlos Bolado's "Colosio: El Asesinato" is an intelligent thriller that beyond its political agenda, shows how the assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio is a huge shadow that still hangs over Mexican politics.


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