Teen Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), her father (whom she hasn't seen in years) and her uncle take off from Honduras toward Mexico in an attempt to get over the border and to New Jersey. Concurrently, gang member El Casper (Édgar Flores), also known as Willy, is dating Martha Marlene (Diana Garcia) but keeping it secret from his Mara Salvatrucha gang to protect her.
Film opens as Casper recruits a young boy, El Smiley (Kristian Ferrer), to join the gang. We witness his jumping in. As movie progresses, Casper keeps more than just Martha Marlene from the gang, breaking the #1 rule of not lying to his "brothers." This leads to tragedy; one Casper can't accept. The facially tattooed top dog of the gang forces Casper and Smiley to accompany him to a cargo train robbery. They board the train and rob the individuals on their long trip to the Mexican border to sneak into the United States. Casper retaliates and saves Sayra. Now--a traitor--he's a marked man. Sayra, feeling indebted, tries to help Casper but ends up putting herself, her uncle and her father at risk.
Sin Nombre is authentic. Its got a low-roar smoldering quality. The vulnerability between Sayra and Casper is palpable. He saves her from a sociopath, but this movie is about a journey--explicitly physical, implicitly emotional. Things aren't buffed up for the viewer. The crowded train tracks where the people wait to embark on their train journey looks convincingly crowded, dirty and sparse. Gang slang used to give us a portal into the MS lifestyle. The stress of having a limited supply of money, the fear of being arrested and possible death on this perilous journey. There is way too much cooking in Sin Nombre for it to be missed.
Writer/Director: Cary Fukunaga
Run time: 96 minutes