The titular area is a gated community in Mexico City, and the opening sequence establishes the Eden-like quality of this affluent enclave, with its pristine lawns, rows of immaculate houses, and smartly uniformed schoolchildren. But as the camera climbs ever higher we become aware of the barbed wire atop the perimeter walls, the CCTV cameras, and the surrounding barrios stretching out into the distance.
This taut and visually accomplished thriller from Uruguayan-born director Rodrigo Plá explores what happens when these two polarised worlds collide. On a stormy night, a power cut enables the teenaged Miguel (Alan Chavez) and two friends to slip past the private security guards and enter the zone undetected. Their attempted burglary goes fatally wrong, leaving the only survivor Miguel trapped somewhere within the perimeter. The wealthy residents, led by Daniel (Daniel Giménez Cacho) decide they will enforce their own justice.
It would have been easy for Plá and screenwriter Laura Santullo, in presenting this cautionary tale, to let the audience off the hook with both Inspector Rigoberto (Mario Zaragoza) and Daniel holding down brutal secrets. And although Daniel’s son Alejandro (Daniel Tovar) gradually emerges as the film’s conscience, La Zona still provides a suitably downbeat ending.
Cameo, Edinburgh and selected release from Fri 17 Oct.