A progressively tedious misfire, Birds of Passage follows Raphayet (José Acosta) as his desperation to raise money for his beloved’s (Natalia Reyes’ Zaida) dowry leads him down a path of illicit drug activity – with the character’s decision to embark upon this dangerous lifestyle inevitably proving disastrous for himself and for those around him. Filmmakers Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra admittedly get Birds of Passage off to a fairly promising start, as the early part of the movie certainly does a solid job of establishing the desolate landscape wherein the central characters reside and the various traditions to which they’re beholden. It does become increasingly clear, however, that Gallego and Guerra have exceedingly (and palpably) little interest in transforming any of the movie’s heroes into three-dimensional, compelling figures, with this proving especially true of Acosta’s almost hilariously flat turn as the utterly, hopelessly bland protagonist. The less-than-captivating atmosphere is exacerbated by Gallego and Guerra’s ongoing reliance on aggressively familiar cliches and conventions, as virtually every plot development within Birds of Passage has seemingly been pulled from other, better stories of this ilk. (And this is to say nothing of the filmmakers’ reliance on eye-rolling character types, including the hothead with a penchant for violence and the hapless messenger who exists only to get killed.) There’s little doubt that the punishingly slow vibe ensures that the movie’s second half is often nothing short of interminable, which is too bad, ultimately, given the potential inherent in Birds of Passage‘s exotic, almost alien locale.
* out of ****