SXSW Film 2016 Review: TRANSPECOS

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

The winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature is a tense, nail-biting character-driven drama that takes place along the U.S./Mexico Border.  A trio of Border Patrol agents are almost finished with their long, boring shift at a highway checkpoint in the desert.  Young and mostly green agents Flores (Gabriel Luna) and Davis (Johnny Simmons) still have much to learn and experience on the job, but are under the supervision of veteran agent Hobbs (Clifton Collins, Jr.), a hardened and cynical officer who has a sharp instinct for detecting trouble.   When a suspicious traveler stops at their station, what was a typical dull day turns into anything but that.

Written and directed by Greg Kwedar, who co-wrote the screenplay with Clint Bentley, Transpecos is definitely the best film I saw in the Narrative Competition category.  A slow burner that builds up intensity beautifully, the film had me on edge with its taut suspense and gripping drama.  The outstanding performances by Luna, Simmons, and Collins, Jr.  The film doesn’t deliver any overtly political messages about border issues, but simply serves a dramatized portrait of the issues faced by border patrol officers.

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