Bernal describes the film as a "very dry action movie," and he's not just talking about the harsh desert conditions it was filmed under. Cuarón creates suspense and tension with scale, Bernal darting under the blazing-hot sun, sprinting through barren vistas, and hiding behind giant rocks. At one point, to escape a bloodthirsty dog, he crawls through a patch of cacti. You'll check your socks for sand when you leave the theater.
An emphasis on the tactile allows the film's ideas to simmer and bake under the desert sun. Where many films would attempt to psychologize Dean Morgan's sniper character by giving him a tortured backstory or a belabored justification for his evil actions, Desierto refuses to provide pat, easy answers. (In fact, the film's Mexican distributors used fan reactions like "I'm rooting for the killer" in a disturbing trailer.) "It's the nature of monsters," says Bernal. "Nothing justifies any of it. So there's something quite perverse about saying we need a justification."