What did you think of this killer villain?
One of the challenges in the movie is they never define why he is hunting immigrants crossing the border. Was it an attack on his ranch? Did he get attacked personally in the past? Did he witness some vigilantes attacking citizen? We never know. You only get the caricature of a villain: racist, plays country music, has a confederate flag, fears the immigrants for some unknown reason. This is crucial to believe in the villain, why does he do what he do? He didn't just pick up a rifle and go crazy? I think one scene flashback to his childhood of witnessing a crazy act would lead you to understand the profile better.
Well outside of the mystery villain, the lead actor is Gael Garcias Bernal playing Moises (Moses), which is a funny obvious reference to the Bible crossing the deserto out of Egypt pursued by the Egyptians for awhile. His character seems to be a side character to the role of the coyotes that take the group across the desert part of the US-Mexico border. They introduce him as the guy with this funny teddy bear that has some button he can't find. This later leads to a great scene of almost getting caught as well as baiting the killer.
As soon as the coyotes and the band of immigrants find the rancher Sam. He immediately starts shooting them off one by one in cold blood. So right off the bat, the majority of the group are paired off. It really puts the group on edge as they literally run for their lives. The violence isn't sugar coated either as bodies are thrown back from the impact of the sniper rifle shots and shots to the body or heads.
One surprising element was the dog in the hunt?
In wars, typically soldiers use dogs to track or hunt an enemy. In centuries past, war dogs were even bred to attack to the death a victim. In the film the villain has trained his dog in such a manner and is well trained. The hunter is able to call back the dog when needed and even end a fight early to keep pursuing the most likely to survive. This could be very disturbing for someone afraid of dogs. The filming was very visceral in effect and you actually feel no sympathy for the dog. Again, a flashback to the dog training may have helped fill in why the dog is the way he is.
One surprise is why the lead hunted Moises doesn't choose to use the gun on his attacker in the film. Of course, coming from Mexico he would not be as familiar with using guns in violence if he hadn't been involved in gangs, since gangs are the primary user of guns outside of police in Mexico.
Well actually the sets are all in the desert. You begin to see the desert as its own personality: high heat, danger of dehydration, arid landscape offering little food, border patrols looking to arrest you, rattlesnakes, cacti and beauty of a dangerous landscape. This environment is very hostile to humans and trying to rid itself of us on its own, which may be why the lead villain goes crazy. The end of the film is beautiful in that they leave you to face the desert continually. Do they survive, get arrest, die? You never will know.