The year's best and strangest and most searching heist movie, Alonso Ruizpalacios' Museo, among many other things, offers an inspired inversion of the fantasy of Indiana Jones. Its centerpiece is a breathless break-in at the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, as two 30ish suburbanites, played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Leonardo Ortizgris, attempt to loot artifacts from what is known as the Mayan room. Ruizpalacios shot in the real museum, a monumental location as arresting, in its shadows and sweeping concrete aprons, as the sites plundered by most movie tomb raiders.
The robbery crackles with awed suspense, alternating between reverence for the objects to be stolen, silent terror that something might go wrong and a painstaking interest in the tools and techniques of theft. And that's just the most crowd-pleasing chunk of an ambitious, restless film that more than fulfills the promise of 2014's Güeros, Ruizpalacios' audacious debut. Museo's 128 minutes mostly concern questions of character and history, of who owns the past and what to make of the present. The thieves go after the Mayan artifacts hoping to sell them, and because mastermind Juan (Bernal) has been fascinated with them since his days as an intern at the museum, but mostly because they're bored. Juan and Benjamin (Ortizgris) are veterinary students living with their mothers in the suburban enclave Satellite City; suburban prosperity, of course, begets suburban ennui, and Ruizpalacios finds brittle comedy in an early set piece of Juan bored out of his skull at a family Christmas celebration. Eventually, as he finds he can't sell hot Mayan relics, his dilemma becomes intensely moving: He's shouldering history and has no idea what to do next.