The Zone ★★★½

How do gated communities affect people living on either side of the walls? Is it possible that gated communities do more harm than good? What do gated communities say about society and its morals? This film fairly effectively raises and tries to address these timely questions, while also touching on issues such as the rich/poor divide and institutional corruption.

In his debut as a feature-film director, Rodrigo Plá tells his story in a somewhat heavy-handed way, so the movie never becomes a fully involving experience and therefore loses some of its power. "La Zona" feels slightly unfocused, and the lack of a consistently organic narrative flow prevents the film’s various story-related elements from coalescing into a completely satisfying whole. At first, the surveillance-camera footage comes across as a nice touch, but it is overused and does not really add much to the proceedings.

All things considered, however, "La Zona" is certainly a worthwhile film that successfully captures the oppressive atmosphere of fear and paranoia that is prevalent in the gated community that it depicts, and it also provokes post-movie discussions.

Daniel Tovar and Alan Chávez (who died in September 2009 after being fatally wounded by police when attempting to flee from them) turn in convincing performances, and the friendship that develops between Alejandro and Miguel, the characters they play, is touching. The other cast members, including Maribel Verdú, give rather bland and forgettable performances, but, in their defense, the problem has more to do with the underdeveloped, two-dimensional characters than with their acting.