No Man’s Land attempts to navigate treacherous territory literally and thematically. Inspired by the real no man’s land territories on the Texas-Mexico border, the movie is about a man named Jackson (Jake Allyn). While out on a vigilante border patrol with his father Bill (Frank Grillo), Jackson accidentally kills a Mexican immigrant boy. Jackson crosses the border to seek forgiveness from the boy’s parents. Along the way, he becomes an illegal alien and must come to terms with a country he has been taught to hate.
The story walks a very narrow path. It is obvious once the plot kicks in this is a tale of redemption for Jackson. This is tricky since the events leading up to the fatal shooting do not make Jackson out to be a “good guy”. No Man’s Land deals with this beautifully by telling its story while making the point that redemption and forgiveness are not always the same thing. There is a clear character arc in No Man’s Land. Over the course of the movie, Jackson learns and changes. What does not happen is everything being resolved with a nice bow.
The movie excels in its realism. Along with Allyn and Grillo, the rest of the cast comes off as very natural. Nothing ever seems forced and it never seems like the movie is trying to force a message about immigration or about how all people are the same. It is refreshing to watch a movie that does not hold the audience’s hand or ask them to accept a character.
No Man’s Land is a story and character driven movie. Though it does have the occasional action scene, it is a personal story that moves forward patiently. The pacing allows the plot to develop, but this also means it will be a little too slow for some. Immigration ca be a very difficult topic to cover in film. It is very easy to be insensitive or to go over the top. No Man’s Land finds the balance that is believable and watchable. The movie is filled with great performances while the story will encourage conversation.
No Man’s Land opens in select theaters, digital platforms and VOD January 22
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