Fantastic Fest 2015: Camino, by Chase Beck
Zoë Bell plays Avery Taggart, a celebrated photojournalist whose work has been described as impartial, depicting all aspects of war-torn countries and those lives that are affected. We are introduced to her from a speech as she is receiving an award. Later, we see Taggart is a deeply cynical individual, full of self-doubt. After receiving her award, we see Taggart celebrating, or drowning her sorrows, in a bar with her publisher, Donald (Kevin Pollak) who knows that the best thing for her is to get right back out there. Donald, in fact, has another assignment for her. In her inebriated state, Avery takes very little convincing. She is to embed with charismatic leader, Guillermo (Nacho Vigalondo).
Guillermo is leading a group of missionaries, who look more like guerilla fighters, in Columbia. The leader, Spanish-born Guillermo is idealistic and devoted to looking out for the little people in the scattered, isolated villages. While embedded with them, Taggart learns about Guillermo’s small team of disciples. There is idealistic Tomas (Francisco Barreiro) and his sweetheart Luna (Nancy Gomez) as well as young and innocent Daniel (Dominic Rains). There seems to be a bit of contention between Guillermo and Alejo (Tenoch Huerta) a hardened soldier who seems like he might have joined the group for the sole purpose of killing people. But, Guillermo explains, having such individuals on his side are necessary for protection.
Avery takes many pictures and for a while the group seems peaceful and happy, they bring joy, happiness, and most importantly medicine with them as they go from town to town. The small band tells stories around the campfire, make toasts and unite in rallying cries of “justicia” (justice). Until Taggart witnesses Guillermo doing something sketchy in the jungle. After being caught photographing it, Avery is pursued through the jungle by Guillermo’s band who have been convinced, through Guillermo’s charismatic persuasiveness that Avery is the true villain.
The film becomes a hunter/hunted scenario as Taggart must decide how far she is willing to go to stay alive. Vigalondo’s posturing and speech-making is the perfect foil for Bell’s physical impressiveness. He is creepily persuasive and able to manipulate his disciples into doing whatever he wants.
I appreciate the additions of flaws that make Avery Taggart believable as a character and kept me interested. Bell does a competent job carrying the film, showing that she is a capable actress. Throughout the film, Bell’s character Taggart goes through some serious physical trials, she also wrestles with personal demons. Writer Daniel Noah and director/writer Josh Waller directly referenced the path of Die Hard’s John McClane in creating and depicting the Bell’s Taggart. While Camino does not rise to the level of Die Hard (and, let’s be honest, what can?) it certainly gets points for featuring a strong and independent female lead.
If there is a weak aspect to Camino it is that the dialogue can at times seem weak and even a little clichéd. This is particularly problematic because Vigalondo’s character is meant to be great at inspiring devotion. Another issue is that Taggart’s most gruelling fight comes early in the film and while it is impressive to witness, none of her physical conflicts after rise to that level. Still the film is a fun entry into this genre.