For Mexican grit fans the film provides few surprises, but equally little in terms of disappointment. There's a whole host of punishment beatings, gang based shootings, execution style killings and general organised crime based mayhem. There's even an accidental murder just for fun, and you almost hear the perp say 'Whoops!'. It's the two convergent story-lines that turn this into a film that is head and shoulders above the gritty waterline (Gomorrah). The plight of El Casper (Edgar Flores) and innocent border crossing hopeful Sayra (Paulina Gaitan) unite their contrasting lives while fleeing for the perceived safety of the USA in a epic journey through inhospitable urban dangers. The acting is universally brilliant with Tenoch Huerta Mejia a particularly charismatic and hauntingly frightening gang leader.
The background and setting of the film tells a second story; of the hardship and desperation of people attempting to escape to a better life. The director used real migrants in the film and this added to the realism of the danger, abuse and daily battle for survival that is fought on the tops of speeding trains. Some of the shots of the train, particularly at night, are stunning and worth the price of the DVD alone.
If there's any criticism, it is that the film could have benefited from being half and hour longer for that true epic feeling. At the end of the day though, if you want a gritty story in a gritty setting, but without the gritty camera work, this is quality piece of work and fits the bill to a tee. Watch on a big television for full effect.
If you like this you could also try:
Carandiru, Amores Perros, Elite Squad.