Written by: Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles
Starring: Sônia Braga, Udo Kier, Bárbara Colen, Thomas Aquino, Silvero Pereira, Karine Teles
Underestimating a group of people based on their way of life can be costly, especially if taking the unnecessary and cruel measures utilized in Bacurau. With the potential of tragedy, it turns out to be one of the most satisfying experiences a film has ever produced in the way it manages to make villainous people pay. A tremendous modern anti-colonialist western and one showing the power of community, even if it’s a small one.
Following the death of the town’s matriarch, the people of the small town Bacurau mourn and begin to move on. As they begin to settle, they notice some strange appearances by people they have never seen before, which turns into a bout for them to defend themselves in any way they can.
The way Bacurau sets out all of its characters and what the film turns into can provide whiplash with what could be expected of this story, especially if going into it blind. The stark difference and revelation made occurs well into the film but to accurately speak on this movie, it needs to be discussed. This small town in Brazil does not harbor more than 100 people but they all have a shared identity. As you can imagine, everyone knows each other pretty well, which cannot be said about the rest of the world. They are so small, in fact, that looking at online maps has it erased from existence. This place is as isolated as one could possibly be from the rest of the world, which makes them prime targets for what will occur later on.
This town becomes subject to a hunting game where some tourists pay for the experience to hunt and kill people. With little to no connection with the outside world and led by a man who has most likely done this before (Udo Kier), things get violent and does not go the way the tourists believed it would. The narrative certainly touches on the idea of colonialism and how a group of white folks believe they have a right to utilize this small town as a game, not even considering their lives for anything other than something to raise their adrenaline. It shows in the customs of these people how much they adapted to the world but maintain their own culture in what they practice and value. This perception allows these tourists to think they will be easy pickings, but they are very wrong.
Violence becomes a major part of this story, as it gets brought on by the tourists and the natives need to match not out of anger, but purely through survival. These tourists arrive with drones and the best machinery, but the townsfolk have their own weaponry, which may not line up technologically, but causes enough damage just the same. The moments of violence arrive in an abrupt manner at times but my goodness, it surely is effective whenever it lands. Usage of blood becomes a major facet of this to show the real stakes involved with this story.
With all of the violence erupting in the second half, the film takes its time in establishing the people of this town and what they do every day in order to just sustain their way of living. It shows the mundanity of having to get water in a truck for the entire town. A member of the town needs to go out in order to get the proper medicine. It seeks to display the level of disconnection but also gives the different characters involved the personality necessary to connect to. While it ultimately becomes about a whole town taking on these murderers, several of them stand out as individuals seen as leaders or impactful at the very least. It displays Domingas (Sônia Braga) who appears to have harbored some strong feelings for the matriarch who just passed. She gives off the town-outsider vibe at times with her abrasiveness but has her moments of compassion and ruthlessness as the story progresses. There’s also Pacote (Thomas Aquino), who generally gets the respect of the people and serves as a guardian and enforcer in the way he reacts to the harmful events occurring. So much personality gets established, which only helps in rooting for the harsh violence they will enact in order to properly protect themselves.
Gruesomely violent but thoroughly entertaining, Bacurau could have trimmed some of its runtime in order to be more efficient but it delivers a satisfying experience. It displays what a western can be shown through the scope of individuals not typically held as the protagonists. The narrative never really goes in any direction that can be predicted, which makes each turn even more enthralling and captivating.