WINNER: International Critics Award, Toronto International Film Festival NOMINATED: Best Film, London Film Festival

In placing us firmly on the side of a group of undocumented Mexican workers caught in the crosshairs of a psychotic American sniper, Desierto probably isn’t going to make Donald Trump’s top-10 list. If that weren’t recommendation enough, director Jonás Cuarón brings a swift, propulsive B-movie energy to his potent sophomore feature (after 2007’s Year of the Nail), a brutal and merciless chase thriller that makes no apologies for its political one-sidedness and visceral extremity.

As simple and minimalist a survival thriller as Gravity (which Cuarón scripted with his father, Alfonso), Desierto operates on a level that is swift, primal and unrelenting. And the picture’s visceral kick is enhanced by its soundscape, vividly registering heavy panting and footfalls, the sickening thud of a body’s landing, and the hard pop of gunfire. Cuarón’s movie may be an exaggerated nightmare vision of murderous xenophobia run amok, but the catharsis in this tale of survival and payback is undeniably real.

Justin Chang Variety