Museo, the sophomore feature from Mexican writer/director Alonso Ruizpalacios, is a gorgeously shot, character-driven heist film inspired by the 1985 Christmas Eve robbery of the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. It is only occasionally that its mild tones go beyond the expected, yet even so, it stands as a low-key fun overall with some refreshing takes on the genre.
Gael Garcia Bernal stars as thirty-something Juan Nunez, a college dropout with a sharp taste for and massive knowledge of anthropology. Moreover, Juan is subversive, selfish, and manipulative, a man capable of driving crazy not just the members of his family, but also Benjamin Wilson (Leonardo Ortizgris), his submissive college mate, follower, and best friend. Ambition is another important feat of his personality, and that’s why he decided to steal invaluable Inca pieces from the National Museum of Anthropology, place where he used to work part-time to pay his leisure time. His idea consists of escaping from the boring suburbs and the control of his vehement father, Dr. Nunez (Alfredo Castro). He and his friend just dreamt of building their own paradise. Sounds great, right?
“…a gorgeously shot, character-driven heist film inspired by the 1985 Christmas Eve robbery of the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.”
Christmas Eve means celebration and, consequently, implies critical breaches in the museum’s security. Juan and Benjamin knew exactly what they wanted to pick. Among the stolen pieces is the funerary mask of King Pakal, which, by itself, makes them multimillionaires. Nonetheless, what seemed obvious to them becomes shrouded in uncertainty, and what should be the simplest part of the plan – selling the art – becomes a nightmare. Juan had the courage to do it. Does he have the courage to fix it?
Ruizpalacios, who did a more consistent job in his 2014 debut drama Gueros, combines adventurous theft, archaeology lessons, family aloofness, and a vitiated friendship all in one. The lens of cinematographer Damián García attractively captures all of this, but part of the energy accumulated during the journey wasn’t always canalized in the right direction. It wouldn’t hurt if the relationship between the two leads were further explored or if Juan’s night of excesses was depicted with a bit more creativity.
Museo (2018) Directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios. Written by Alonso Ruizpalacios and Manuel Alcalá. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Leonardo Ortizgris, Alfredo Castro.
6 out of 10 stars