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Birds of Passage traces the familiar arc of the drug crime thriller from a different direction that's as visually absorbing as it is hard-hitting.
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All Critics (94)
| Top Critics (22)
| Fresh (88)
| Rotten (6)
There are numerous echoes of The Godfather, notable among them the way market forces, exemplified by the drug trade, can work to destroy the old ways of doing things, and the old bonds that preserve both family and the civilization it supports.
The film's glorious cinematography (hat tip to David Gallego) compliments the directors' vision, making "Birds of Passage" a film that flies as high as its ambition.
The corrosive effects of the drug trade have been brought to tragic life on screens both big and small so often that there doesn't seem much new could be said on the topic. That's where the film "Birds of Passage" vividly proves otherwise.
[A] fascinating portrait of moral decay, if also as far from a documentary as you can get.
Its characters are driven by their beliefs in the power of dreams and in otherworldly spirits that rule their lives. Their hubris leads them to take actions that inevitably have fatal consequences. It really is quite a beguiling tale.
By the middle of the movie, it's as if every single plot point must wait until a tribal council convenes and pronounces on what should happen next.
...a fascinating and beautifully-shot work which is a worthy successor to Guerra's 2015 Embrace of the Serpent...
The wide-screen images are arresting, however, and the movie helps keep remote places, people, and history alive.
And though scene after scene of Birds of Passage recalls that familiar structure, reminding you of what's to come, you have never seen a film quite like this.
Directing duo Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra transcend the familiar narrative by including unique elements and traditions of the characters' native tribe.
Lightning strikes twice for Embrace of the Serpent filmmakers Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra. Their sophomore epic will leave you breathless. A masterpiece.
For all our Tony Montanas and Pablo Escobars, both imagined and real, I guarantee you have never seen a drug-trafficking movie like Birds of Passage.
THE TRIBES HAVE BARELY SPOKEN - My Review of BIRDS OF PASSAGE (3 Stars)
One of the great things cinema has afforded us is the chance to immerse ourselves in cultures weï¿ 1/2(TM)d never have a chance to experience otherwise. In 2015, the team of Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra brought us the Oscar nominated EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT, which detailed the destruction of the Amazon from the perspective of its indigenous peoples. Visually sumptuous and completely immersive, the film left me with high expectations for their follow-up. In many ways, BIRDS OF PASSAGE, a drug gangster saga spanning from 1968-1980, does not disappoint, despite a central flaw.
Set amongst the Wayuu tribes of Northern Columbia, the film slowly, oh so slowly, shows how the marijuana trade corrupts and destroys a family. At first, the filmmakers, with a screenplay co-written by Maria Camila Arias and Jacques Toulemond Vidal, bring us a taste of the Way customs with an opening scene depicting Zaida (Natalia Reyes) emerging from a year of seclusion to show herself off as a woman to the community. She does a birdlike dance and soon Rapayet (Josï¿ 1/2 (C) Acosta) joins her in the dance to claim her as his future bride. Shades of THE GODFATHER here and elsewhere appear not coincidental. The matriarch, a stern, courageous leader named Ursula (CarmiÃ±a MartÃnez), scarcely approves of Rapayet, but entertains the thought because his uncle is a ï¿ 1/2Word Messengerï¿ 1/2Â?, an exalted member of the tribe. Still, she demands he provide a dowry of livestock and talismans to prove he can provide for his bride. Strapped for cash, Rapayet heads out with his lifelong friend Moises (the scene stealing Jhon NarvÃ¡ez) to earn money when they happen upon a group of US Peace Corps hippies in need of marijuana. Rapayet partners with another Way family who traffic in the drug, et voila, they find themselves making more money than they had imagined. The film, told in five chapters, lurches forward to show us Rapayet has married Zaida and the drug business has boomed. Weï¿ 1/2(TM)re soon at AMERICAN MADE levels of trade, with better digs and airplanes flying in and out of Columbia with their crop. Clearly, as history tells us, no good can come from this. What follows are tribal clashes, lots of bloodshed, betrayals, more money than anyone can handle, and a culture lost to greed.
If any of this sounds familiar, itï¿ 1/2(TM)s because weï¿ 1/2(TM)ve seen this story outline play out over decades of cinema gangster stories. What gives this film its freshness is the indigenous point of view, the details of their customs, and the stark, hushed style of its filmmakers. No grandiose ï¿ 1/2Say hello to my little friendï¿ 1/2Â? moments, although NarvÃ¡ez comes the closest with his wild energy, BIRDS OF PASSAGE plays out more like a mournful elegy for a lost culture. Unfortunately, the non-actors in the cast deliver flat performances, keeping us from caring very deeply about most of the characters. Acosta clearly has the Michael Corleone role here, but while he stares intensely, he doesnï¿ 1/2(TM)t show off his conflicted character to its greatest effect. Itï¿ 1/2(TM)s also strange for me to criticize a film for being too visual, but the spare dialogue leaves us wanting for more context and shadings.
Now donï¿ 1/2(TM)t get me wrong, this film delivers on its visuals, with EMBRACE OF THE SERPENTï¿ 1/2(TM)s cinematographer David Gallegos again gorgeously providing one memorable shot after another. Whether itï¿ 1/2(TM)s the eye-popping dream sequences or a terrifying scene in which the headlights of a car reveal a road filled with corpses, the film truly treats us to sights most of us will never see on our own.
I just expected something weightier. To feel more. Any story which covers an epic amount of like this needs characters with far more layers than what we get here. I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story, allowing myself to bask in its unrushed style and again, those visuals. I loved watching an ANIMAL KINGDOM-esque matriarch going all Marlon Brando by making the tough calls, but the one-dimensional nature of its characters kept me at arms length throughout. Still, the filmmakers have a distinctive, quasi-documentary voice and an interest in showing us unseen parts of the world which keeps me enthusiastic for whatever they tackle next.
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