If you're looking for socially conscious character drama unencumbered by sensationalism, make a date with Catalina Sandino Moreno, the star of this season's most involving personal odyssey. As Maria, a pregnant 17-year-old conscripted into working as an in-flight drug mule, Moreno brings an almost Biblical equipoise to the story of her character's harrowing first Colombia-to-New York run. The actress has help from the film's subtle but persistent visual styling, which keeps placing the beleaguered Maria in upward-looking poses that suggest religious salvation: Seeing her swallow 62 pellets of dope before takeoff, we can't help but perceive a quietly indignant toxin-as-Eucharist metaphor. Yet for all the tweaking of sacred iconography, there's an undercurrent of optimism to the film, laying the groundwork for a surprisingly convincing depiction of America as the land of opportunity or at least lesser horror than Maria faces at home. We're No. 1, director Joshua Marston allows, if only by default.
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