It's the mid-80s and celebrated war photographer Avery (Zoe Bell) has just won a prestigious award in honour of her endeavours. The true recipients should be, she tells her cheering audience, the people whose haunted expressions she's captured on camera over the years.
It's precisely that selfless desire to expose the pain of others that prompts her editor, Donald (Kevin Pollack), to waste no time in thrusting another assignment upon her: following a group of missionaries into the heart of the Colombian jungle.
A quick session with her partner, and then Avery is off on her jollies - where she quickly meets chatty group leader Guillermo (Nacho Vigalondo) and his team of heavily armed do-gooders. The team seem affable enough, though the likes of young Alejo (Tenoch Huerta) are clearly adept with a rifle when needs be.
All goes well for a while, Avery taking her required snaps as the team finally land on a village in the jungle and deliver medical supplies. Curiously, though, not many of the residents seem desperate for them. Avery thinks little of this, and retires later to camp with her crew.
That evening, she's compelled to get up and take a few more photographs in the nearby forage. While there, she spies Guillermo conducting a transaction with locals which concerns several huge bags of cocaine. A young boy from the village also witnesses the sale; unaware he's being observed, Guillermo slashes the lad's throat in cold blood. Avery's determined to capture this true horror on film - alas, the flash of her camera alerts Guillermo to her presence. Oops.
So that's that. Avery is now on the run, in the forest, with only her unusually resourceful survival skills and the occasional imaginary appearance of her boyfriend for company. Meanwhile, Guillermo returns to camp with the dead boy in his arms and blames his murder on Avery: the group act upon his instruction and go out, guns cocked and loaded, in search of her.
Relax. The film is 100 minutes long and my synopsis has taken you 29 minutes into it. There's more to come, before you accuse me of being majorly spoilerific. And to make sure I don't give away anything more, all I will say regarding the final hour's plot is RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 2. Don't try and read anything into that: just accept that Avery suddenly becomes an action hero with considerable skills when it comes to outwitting several pursuers in the wild.
CAMINO starts off quite well. It looks great, all widescreen photography and beautiful Colombian scenery. The onscreen pairing of Bell and TIMECRIMES director Vigalondo was a huge draw for me, and they do enjoy a couple of entertaining conversational scenes during the first act. Pepijn Caudron's score is at once jazzy, electronic and discordant: I liked it a lot. The premise is intriguing, the suggestion of a political element threatening to tug at the brain while the action entertains (a marriage which is most welcome). But then, the film changes one-third in and transforms into a standard chase picture.
Yes, it's violent at times. The stunt-work, as you can imagine from a film where Bell takes centre-stage, is convincing. But it's never truly satisfying. Perhaps it's the faceless villains, or maybe it's Bell's underplayed lead: gritty and authentic, but never easy to warm to as a result. Whatever it is, we never truly care about what's unfurling onscreen. For all the flashy camerawork (some nice tracking and aerial shots included) and breathless running around, there's no sense of true tension ever to be felt. Vigalondo makes for a disappointingly cartoonish bad guy, while I imagine his rambling monologues were ad-libbed. If so, this was ill-advised; they hamper the pacing on more than one occasion.
CAMINO isn't a bad film but it emerges, sadly, as a rather pedestrian one. One that doesn't stay etched in the memory for long after consumption.
Metrodome's UK DVD presents CAMINO uncut and in its original 2.35:1 ratio. The picture is 16x9 enhanced and looks pretty great. Blacks are stable and deep; flesh tones are accurate; cinematic depth is what you'd hope for; the picture is clean and sharp without trace of enhancements or noise; colours remain vivid and true throughout.
Audio is predominantly English with short passages of Spanish here and there. English subtitles are burned-in for the latter moments. The soundtrack is proffered in options of 2.0 and 5.1. The former seemed a little muted at times to me, as if characters were mumbling. It's okay, but the latter beefs everything up and separates the aural action far better.
The disc opens with trailers for BLOOD ORANGE, GO WITH ME and BLACK ROCK. These are the only bonus features on offer.
A static main menu page leads into a similarly motionless scene selection option affording access to the film via 12 chapters.
CAMINO boasts an intriguing premise, interesting casting, nice locations and violent action set-pieces. But somehow none of this gels effectively enough to help it rise above being merely decent.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Metrodome|
|see main review|