Uncovering Curiosities: Gabriel Ripstein’s 600 MILES

Award-winning Mexican drama 600 Miles is an interesting little curiosity which captivates and engages even though there is very little happening on screen. The 2015 release is a simple and short tale (just 80 minutes long) which sees Tim Roth as Hank Harris, an ATF agent tracking gun smugglers across the US-Mexico border. He closes in on a young low-level smuggler, Arnulfo (Kristyan Ferrer) who is eager to move up the food chain.  When Hank’s bust goes wrong Arnulfo takes him hostage and the majority of the film then sees their interactions.

In the hands of an American director, 600 Miles could have been a faster paced and more action packed film. However, writer-director Gabriel Ripstein doesn’t try to introduce any artificial tension or thrills. There’s an almost documentary style honesty to the film and its performances and Ripstein makes the most of the film’s many silences. Nothing is over-explained and you’re left to fill in a lot of narrative blanks –  it’s good that the plot and characterisation isn’t force-fed to the audience but it’s a shame that one intriguing central character vanishes early in the film never to be seen again.

Tim Roth and Kristyan Ferrer give the main performances in 600 Miles and they both underplay their roles, using the sparse dialogue to build on top of their internal character work. These aren’t flashy roles, but they do feel very real. It’s the tiny character moments which bring these roles to life and (like the rest of the film) nothing is over-explained or added for dramatic effect.  Ripstein camera follows the characters, leaving the audience to fill-in the blanks.

600 Miles leaves a lot of questions unanswered and that might not be for everyone. It’s not an action packed drama but it does take an interesting look at US gun law and the country’s fraught relationship with Mexico. Gabriel Ripstein has delivered a captivating, no-frills film which is worth checking out for its fresh approach. A small film like 600 Miles has the potential to slip through the cracks and be ignored by the masses, however if you commit to watching it then you’ll be impressed with how Ripstein was able to do so much with so little.

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