Chicago Critics Film Festival 2019: Monos
By Andrea Thompson
In the film “Monos,” the eight teenage soldiers in a Latin American country may be at war, but they are constantly surrounded by the breathtaking natural beauty that is a sharp contrast, and later, a complement, to the humanity's brutality, as they literally descend from a remote mountaintop to a hidden area of the jungle that tears their bond asunder.
As “Monos” begins on the mountaintop above the clouds, the group has been instructed to guard a cow, and more seriously, a captured American engineer they call Doctora (Julianne Nicholson). The eight of them have a somewhat fraught, yet firmly loving bond, where the trials and drama of adolescence take place alongside guns, war exercises, and sometimes, actual warfare. Just when you think these kids are treating the conflict like a neverending slumber party with their friends, one of them accidentally kills the cow they're supposed to be guarding, and it hits that they all know exactly what they've gotten themselves into.
This seemingly minor incident escalates, leading to a series of horrific consequences, especially after the group is ordered to move to a new location in the jungle. The bonds of adolescence quickly transforms into something far darker, as they slowly begin to surrender their humanity. Moises Arias is a standout as the group's charismatic leader, and the film thankfully keeps the “Lord of the Flies” references to a minimum. Even if “Monos” refuses to tie up its own loose ends, the human nature it portrays is terrifyingly real, as everyone proves capable of dizzying levels of kindness, compassion, and most frightening of all, cruelty.