"Sin Nombre" is a remarkable film. It's set in Central America and Mexico and, like when I watched "Let The Right One In", I was on the edge of my seat the whole time because I really cared about the characters and could see that things were not going to go smoothly for them. El Casper is a young member of the Tapachula, Mexico branch of the crazily violent criminal gang, Mara Salvatrucha. His girlfriend, Martha Marlene, is a middle class girl whom he tries to keep secret from the gang. Smiley is a 12 year old boy whom Casper brings into the gang. He's a larcenous innocent who acquires the homicidal callousness of a child soldier, which he functionally is. Lil' Mago, the leader of the gang, is Satan with face tattoos but not un-nuanced.
Separately, Sayra, a Honduran teenage girl, and her father and uncle are traveling north towards the United States. They come into Tapachula to hop a freight train and things go from there.
This is the first film of young American director Cary Joji Fukunaga (born in Oakland, CA) and he shot it in Spanish, mostly in Mexico, with a mix of professional and first time actors. The film received a lot of critical praise when it was released in 2009 and it deserves it. It's hard to believe it's a first film because the performances are great, the script (which Fukunaga wrote) is smart, suspenseful and even funny. Cinematographer Adriano Goldman gave the film a beautiful look. There is a lot of violence in the film but it's not gratuitous. It's part of the texture of things in the ordeal of making it, illegally, to the USA.