Wind in the Night [Jesse Harris, USA, 2018]
Opening out in the Texan desert, the camera slowly zooms in on a stationary pickup truck, as a man in a cowboy hat at the wheel leans out of the window pensively smoking a cigarette. This languid and sumptuous framing skilfully builds up a sense of foreboding before a single word is uttered and immediately we know that, in terms of the film, we are in safe hands. Cut to our protagonist Guillermo, a family man and a drug mule for a Mexican cartel. He consoles his emotional wife and daughter as he prepares to leave for a job. His wife implores “Let’s run away. We could go now, Guillermo. We don’t need any of these things”. It has been instructed that Guillermo must leave his family behind in order to take up errands as a “receiver” on the American side of the border and permanently replace the existing associate Roldan (the mysterious man in the pickup truck). And yes, by “replace”, they mean “kill”!
Flying through the night in a light aircraft and a vast amount of narcotics in tow, Guillermo meets Roldan in the desert to make the drop. The musical score as the scene commences is full of unease, the discordant triplets of violins stabbing aggressively over the slow pulse of pounding drums. In a fantastic set-piece, the two men trudge back and forth between the plane and the truck, gathering up and offloading the cargo. Roldan is the more loquacious of the two, jovially commending Guillermo on his piloting prowess, “You’re like the wind in the night! Those fuckers cannot even see you, huh?” Guillermo gives no response but silently sizes up his rather intimidating target, keeping the viewer suspended in tension, wondering whether or not he has the resourcefulness and grit to go through with this fatal command.
Wind in the Night is a brilliantly conceived thriller featuring very convincing performances from an all-Latino cast. Jesse Harris handles the plot with great taste, careful not to overindulge in the violent or exploitative aspects of the gangster narrative. Much more attention is given to creating suspense and drama through visually cohesive gestures, with exceptional cinematography by T. J. Williams Jr. whose slow-looming lens and vivid lighting of expansive milieus produce impressionistic textures comparable to luminaries such as Robert Elswit or Roger Deakins. In under 15 minutes, the film manages to masterfully convey the emotional complexities of a vulnerable man in the midst of a powerfully complex and dangerous conundrum, and leaves us to ruminate over the cruelly cyclical nature of fate.