Miss Bala (2011)

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Released 20-Mar-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Drama None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 108:25
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Gerardo Naranjo
Transmission Films Starring Stephanie Sigman
Juan Carlos Galván
Noé Hernández
Irene Azuela
Javier Zaragoza
Lakshmi Picazo
Jose Yenque
James Russo
Leonor Vitorica
Gabriel Heads
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Emilio Kauderer

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman) comes from a poor family in Tijuana and lives with her father and younger brother. In hopes of a better life she enters the Miss Baja California beauty pageant with her friend Suzu. That evening she is in a club with Suzu when a drug gang led by Lino Valdez (Noe Hernandez) attack the club and kill a number of police and DEA agents. Laura is later picked up by Valdez and, fearing for the safety of her father and brother, she starts doing errands for the gang, initially small scale but later including taking money across the US border to buy weapons. The beauty pageant is controlled by the drug gang, so Laura wins. But there is a further price, and Laura cannot avoid being involved in a game for very high stakes indeed, with corruption that goes all the way to the top.

     Miss Bala is an explosive, gripping and compelling thriller about the drug wars in northern Mexico, and about an innocent girl who gets caught up in events way beyond her depth. Miss Bala is told from the POV of Laura, so we know only what she knows, which is clearly only part of the picture, and the audience, as well as Laura, do not understand the shifting alliances of the shadowy world of the drug cartels and the corrupt police. The film also looks and feels real. The dialogue sounds natural, the camera avoids flashy edits or quick pans even during the action sequences which are chaotic and intense but do not involve jerky hand held cameras. The sound design is also natural; music is mostly absent leaving a realistic sound stage of engines, insects, passing cars and silences. Stephanie Sigman is fantastic; her motivations and options are clearly spelled out and she imbues her character with a total plausibility and vulnerability. As well, Noe Hernandez is not a monster or a psychopath; although he does terrible things they all have a purpose, and his scenes with Sigman are an impressive depth. As a result, the film avoids sensationalism and just lets the images tell the story.

     In Miss Bala writer / director Gerardo Naranjo has crafted a dark and powerful film. There is nothing contrived about the film; the characters and situations are credible, there are no easy choices for Laura and the ending is believable and consistent with what has gone before. The film looks and feels real and it is easy to believe that this is exactly how the drug gangs and police operate in northern Mexico and use ordinary people and why there are no easy answers when there is so much money involved. Miss Bala is compelling, entertaining cinema that is well worth a look.

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Transfer Quality


     Miss Bala is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The print is not the sharpest but detail is OK with good definition of faces in close-up. Colours are on the light side but are not unnatural. Blacks are good and shadow detail fine, shin tones natural. Brightness and contrast sometimes vary depending on the location of the light source, but this does tend to enhance the realistic feel of the film.

     There is occasional minor blur with motion but otherwise this is a clean print, without artefacts.

     There are burnt in white English subtitles. They seem to be timely and I noticed only one error: at 81:06time for you interview”.

     An acceptable print without issues.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps.

     Dialogue is clear and centred. The use of the surrounds was excellent; as noted there is little music in the film but the rears were frequently in use with engines, bullet hits, ambient sound and insects. The gunshots are deep and resonate and there are some panning effects, creating a good enveloping audio experience. The sub-woofer added appropriate bass to explosions and gunshots.

     The original music by Emilio Kauderer is only occasionally heard but is effective when used in the film.

     Lip synchronisation is fine.

     The audio track is very good.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     Nothing. The menu only had “Play” as an option, not even scene selection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Butp>     Miss Bala has been released in Region 1 US, Region 2 UK, and Region 1/4 Latin America. None have any extras listed. The Region 2 UK version is listed as in a ratio of 1.78:1 but is 2.35:1. The US NTSC release has an English dub, if that is important, otherwise the Australian Region 4 version will do fine.


     Miss Bala is an explosive, gripping and powerful thriller. There is nothing contrived about the film; the characters and situations are plausible and it is easy to believe that this is exactly how the drug gangs and police operate. Miss Bala is compelling cinema that is well worth a look.

     The video is good, the audio very good. There are absolutely no extras, but there are none in any other region either.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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