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Miss Bala (2012)


Average Rating: 7.1/10
Reviews Counted: 63
Fresh: 55
Rotten: 8

Critics Consensus: Miss Bala's subject is loaded enough, but the frantic and muscular filmmaking puts this movie in a whole new league.

Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 25
Fresh: 24
Rotten: 1

Critics Consensus: Miss Bala's subject is loaded enough, but the frantic and muscular filmmaking puts this movie in a whole new league.


Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 4,537


Movie Info

Miss Bala tells the story of Laura, a young woman whose aspirations of becoming a beauty queen turn against her, delivering her into the hands of a gang that's terrorizing northern Mexico. Although Laura succeeds in winning the beauty queen crown, her experiences as an unwilling participant in Mexico's violent war leave her shaken and transformed. -- (C) Fox International Productions

R (for language, some brutal violence and sexuality)
Drama , Action & Adventure
Directed By:
In Theaters:
Feb 28, 2012
Fox International - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Miss Bala

All Critics (64) | Top Critics (26) | Fresh (55) | Rotten (8) | DVD (1)

Naranjo is unflinching in his determination not to serve up mindless entertainment.

Full Review… | February 2, 2012
Toronto Star
Top Critic

Maybe the film doesn't add up to quite as much as its talented director, Gerardo Naranjo, seems to have hoped, but it is tense and propulsive.

Full Review… | January 26, 2012
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Miss Bala is full of virtuoso single-take tracking shots and over-the-shoulder perspectives that effectively convey a sense of menace and momentum.

Full Review… | January 26, 2012
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

Naranjo offers a grim subject with neither flash nor sentiment. It is a sober film done with style.

Full Review… | January 26, 2012
Boston Globe
Top Critic

This strange and eerie noir is more a collection of knockout scenes than a fully realized story.

Full Review… | January 20, 2012
New York Post
Top Critic

"Miss Bala" can't quite engage. It fires at the target. It makes a lot of noise. But it never quite hits the bull's eye.

Full Review… | January 20, 2012
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic

Miss Bala is a tremendous cinematic achievement; both a stunning technical exercise in sustained tension and a rich allegory highlighting the hopeless scenario facing an entire society caught in the crossfire of a futile drug war

Full Review… | November 25, 2013

Naranjo numbs sensation to make his points about the drug war's damage to Mexico, turning Miss Bala into a thriller from the dissociative first person perspective.

Full Review… | May 10, 2012
Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema audacious yet hopelessly uninvolving art-house thriller that peters out significantly in the buildup to its anticlimactic finale.

Full Review… | February 3, 2012
Reel Film Reviews

Sloppy writing and storytelling make the near two hour film seem far longer.

Full Review… | February 2, 2012
Reeling Reviews's clear Naranjo has a lot on his mind about the state his country has fallen into. If only he had a clearer narrative.

Full Review… | January 30, 2012
Reeling Reviews

You feel the movie's authenticity, throughout the ordeal that leaves Laura brutalized, terrified, confused, abandoned, with nowhere to turn.

Full Review… | January 26, 2012
Philadelphia Daily News

Sigman's tremulous, vivid performance anchors the movie. It's a knockout.

Full Review… | January 24, 2012
Boston Phoenix

Provides a discomfortingly intimate glimpse into the complexities of the Mexican-U.S. drug trade. "Miss Bala" shouldn't be written off by adventurous moviegoers.

Full Review… | January 23, 2012
Movie Dearest

The paranoia is contagious

Full Review… | January 22, 2012

The topical subject may draw larger-than-usual audiences, as will the undeniably formidable technical achievements.

Full Review… | January 20, 2012
Boxoffice Magazine

unyielding in its very real terror

Full Review… | January 19, 2012

Audience Reviews for Miss Bala

Miss Bala is quite a misleading film due to how it was publicised. It's not better or worse than I expected though but it is more brutal and shocking than I'd anticipated. It's pretty provocative but it needs to be in order to tell the story. Its real strength is when it puts the viewer in the position of our protagonist, it reminded me of Samuel Maoz's film Lebanon in some scenes, the tension and anticipation levels are high, making it a very entertaining thriller. It always stays true to form though, never once sugar-coating the situation in gang-law territory, even the relatively happy ending will leave you feeling uneasy. A great film, it's just a shame they've done a poor job of publicising it.

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

Miss Bala (Mexico's foreign film entry for 2011) is an unwavering, startling, and deeply tense movie about one woman's tragic and unwilling association with a powerful drug cartel. Laura (Stephanie Sigman) wants to be the next Miss Baja California, but she's unwittingly pulled into a life of crime after she witnesses a gang hit. The cartel ensures that Laura wins the beauty pageant and becomes a courier for them. The movie takes a Lars von Trier approach to storytelling, putting its heroine through a torture chamber of anxiety and terror. This woman only wants to escape the hell she has accidentally found herself a part of, but every attempt to escape, be it going to the police or confessing assassination plots to the intended targets, gets her corralled back into the fray. For Laura, there is no escape. The movie packs a near-constant surge of paranoia, as we fear that at any time something awful will happen. In fact it's usually only a matter of time. Laura is more a symbol of the collateral damage of Mexico's billion-dollar drug war than a character, and she kind of becomes a numb zombie by the movie's latter half, perhaps accepting her doomed fate. Director Gerado Naranjo favors long unwinding takes and handheld cameras, which add a gritty realism and sense of compounding dread to the picture. The movie has an unflinching level of realism to it that makes it all the more haunting, stripping the romanticism from a life of crime. Much like Italy's heralded crime film Gomorrah, this bleak but impassioned movie shows the inescapable tentacles of organized crime and gives a face to innocents caught in the middle. Miss Bala is a testament to the hidden toll of a nation at war with itself.

Nate's Grade: B+

Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer


In "Miss Bala," Laura(Stephanie Sigman), a 23-year old shop girl, and her friend Suzu(Lakshmi Picazo) sign up for a beauty pageant, Miss Baja California. That night instead of shopping for a dress, Suzu drags her friend along to a nightclub. Bored, Laura wanders off where she is found by a gunman who asks her questions about who is inside, gives her a little money and tells her to get lost. Well, not before Laura can get Suzu out but they become separated once the shooting starts and Laura makes it to safety out a window. The following morning Suzu is still missing and Laura does the sensible thing in going to a policeman. But instead of taking her to a police station, he takes her to Lino(Noe Hernandez), the criminal leader, who asks her what she knows before inquiring if she can drive a car.

There are statistics given at the end of "Miss Bala" about how many people have died in the drug wars in northern Mexico. Now, using a beauty pageant may seem like a screwy way at first to get there but according to the literature, a beauty queen is supposed to represent her subjects and Laura does, if you mean her subjects include those trapped in between the authorities and the criminals. The movie is on neither side, as it paints the authorities as corrupt and in cold blooded fashion Lino lets the DEA know that they are not welcome in Mexico. All of which is seen through Laura's eyes as she provides a ground level view of what goes on around her for the viewer, as she becomes little more than a commodity to the criminals with her body(notice how it is described, by the way) used and abused, with little choice in her actions. Even with large amounts of money on the table, she is not really tempted, either, with the exception of a scene in an upscale dress shop. The most important lesson in all of this is to always listen to your parents.

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

I could swear that I had already reviewed this piece but Flixster still has it on my "want to see" list so here we go again. With shades of Traffic and Maria Full of Grace, we have Miss Bala which has similar storylines. Perhaps it is unnecessary to get into themes so richly covered by those previous films but Miss Bala gives us the unique, and possibly true, angle of the beauty queen working for criminals. It works out nicely.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

Miss Bala Quotes

Laura Guerrero:
My dream is to represent the beautiful woman of my state.
– Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)

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