Monos is a Colombian war drama from director Alejandro Landes that follows a troop of young soldiers, the Monos, being trained on a remote mountain top in Colombia. Made up of 8 people, each only known by their codename, we watch as the group must guard a prisoner of war and slowly begin to succumb to in fighting, and a slow descent into ferality.
Watching the shifting dynamics within the Monos is absolutely fascinating. They are only occasionally visited by their superior, the Messenger, who pushes them to train harder. The majority of the film sees the group left unsupervised, headed up by Wolf. We see how some of the group, principally Rambo, begin to waver from the group’s course, whilst Bigfoot pushes the troop to be more independent of ‘the organisation’ that they serve under.
It is also fascinating to watch how their attitude towards the presence of their uncooperative prisoner Doctora, an American woman, changes as the film progresses and reflects the slow loss of humanity within the Monos. The actors playing the children do a fantastic job of bringing an individuality of each of the eight soldiers, and quickly making sure each one is a unique figure among the collective.
But it is the work from Alejandro Landes that really stands in Monos. Working with cinematographer Jasper Wolf really brings the remote locations of the film and the harsh lives of the monos to life with some stunning immigary. Some of the shots they get are incredible, with one sequence in rapids really standing out.
Alongside that composer Mica Levi’s score is so atmospheric and unsettling that it really helps Landes set the tone that many are rightly comparing to Lord of the Flies meeting Apocalypse Now. It isn’t your usual film score, far removed from the orchestral work of John Williams or Hans Zimmer’s thundering symphonies. Instead Levi’s score is sparse and utterly unique.
The only thing that really held Monos back from greatness for me, was that it didn’t hit me on a personal level, either emotionally or viscerally. But that doesn’t detract from the brilliant of the film on a technical level, and how well it depicts the Monos’ fall.