desierto trailer 2

Is there anything more inherently cinematic than a good old fashioned “cat and mouse” story? One character wants to kill another. That other wants to stay alive at all costs. Put them in an interesting setting, ratchet up the emotional stakes, and watch humanity boil over for two hours or so.

Desierto, the feature directorial debut of Jonás Cuarón, son of Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón, looks familiar and fresh in all of the right ways. The mouse is a Mexican migrant played by Gael Garcia Bernal. The cat is a vigilante with a rifle and a willingness to pull the trigger played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Their maze is the arid desert of the American southwest.

Check out the new Desierto trailer after the jump.

Although it looks like a straightforward thriller at its core, Desierto also seems ready and willing to push a few challenging buttons. With much of the United States currently debating about the future of immigration policy, here is a movie where the hero is a migrant worker attempting to illegally cross the border…only to find his group ambushed by a crazed white guy with a gun and a vicious attack dog.

Although the trailer could not be more different in tone, I’m very much reminded of the 2010 film Undocumented, which used similar subject matter as the basis for a grisly horror movie. Here’s a survival story that wants to directly tap into a very specific set of fears at the heart of a hot button issue.

If director Jonás Cuarón sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the son of director Alfonso Cuarón, the genius filmmaker behind Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Jonás Cuarón is also one of the credited writers on his father’s smash hit, Oscar-sweeping Gravity. That project also gave him a chance to hone his directorial chops: he helmed the companion short film Aningaaq, which follows the Inuit fisherman who receives Sandra Bullock’s desperate SOS from space:

Here’s the official synopsis for Desierto:

From Jonás Cuarón and Alfonso Cuarón, the acclaimed filmmakers of Gravity, comes a unique, modern vision of terror.  Desierto is a visceral, heart-pounding suspense-thriller packed with tension and suspense from start to finish, starring Gael García Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries and Y Tu Mamá También) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen). What begins as a hopeful journey to seek a better life becomes a harrowing and primal fight for survival when a deranged, rifle-toting vigilante chases a group of unarmed men and women through the treacherous U.S.-Mexican border.  In the harsh, unforgiving desert terrain, the odds are stacked firmly against them as they continuously discover there’s nowhere to hide from the unrelenting, merciless killer.

And here is a statement from Cuarón, where he discusses his influence as a filmmaker and Desierto‘s seven-year journey to theaters:

DESIERTO marks a particularly personal journey in storytelling for writer, director, editor and producer Jonás Cuarón who spent the last 7 years bringing the story of the migrant experience to the screen. In his own words: “I took a trip through the U.S. Southwest where I encountered first-hand stories surrounding immigration and the often cruel and violent story of the migrant journey. I was very moved and immediately felt compelled to outline the film – which happened even before writing GRAVITY. I’ve always been very interested in the concept of films like Spielberg’s DUEL, Konchalovskiy’s RUNAWAY TRAIN and Bresson’s A MAN ESCAPES. They are non-stop nail biting thrillers with very little dialogue but that at the same time manage to juggle various themes. I was very interested in the drive of these films where the audience connects with the story and character in a very visceral way. In DESIERTO, I wanted to create a gripping film that would engage the audience in that same kind of visceral, cathartic experience and also allow them to reflect on this very complicated subject which illuminates the often devastating experience migrants face in the search for a better life. Bringing Gael (García Bernal) on board was a no-brainer, not just for his skillful acting but also for the soul I trusted he would bring to the story. I knew that Gael also felt very passionately about issues surrounding immigration and would bring to life the struggle, hope and determination that are the fabric of the migrant story.”

Desierto will arrive in theaters on March 4, 2016.

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