Juliette Binoche thrives in a role we never expected in this riveting drama about change from filmmaker Anna Gutto.
Sally is a local truck driver who is making a living in order to help both she and her brother out. Her brother Dennis is currently in prison and is set to be released soon. When Sally is gearing up for her next job, in which she transports illicit cargo, she is shocked to learn the next cargo is actually a young girl. En route to the location, Sally and the girl, Leila, are confronted by a burly man who after a shootout, is killed by Leila. Sally learns Leila is to be trafficked. However, the shooting has garnered the attention of more than the trafficking ring, but the FBI as well.
Retired FBI agent Gerick, an expert in human trafficking cases, is brought back for this final case and he is teaming with rookie agent Finlay Sterling, who has a no-nonsense approach. As they track down Sally and Leila, the truck driver and the girl slowly begin to bond. When Sally is beaten up by three fellow truckers at a bar one night due to the situation, Leila comes to Sally’s aid. Sally soon realizes she can’t let Leila go and will go to any lengths to ensure she is safe with her. However, with the FBI hot on her trail, will she be able to successfully save Leila from a future of abuse?
From writer/director Anna Gutto, this is a film that is both entertainment and tackles a very serious topic, human trafficking. It has become a serious topic in recent films from I am All Girls and others, this is a riveting film about a truck driver forced to transport a young girl only to show a bond strong enough that in times of need, they are willing to help each other and in the case of protagonist Sally, she goes from strong-willed to someone whose moral compass has gotten the best of her and thus, changes her tune and will do anything to protect the girl.
Juliette Binoche, a world-renowned actress known for playing more aristocratic roles, took a major chance at playing not only someone who defines small town USA, but that of a female truck driver as well. For the record, she succeeds as a woman who goes from going through great lengths to make that money for a better life to going through great lengths to ensure the safety of a child with money going on the backburner. Binoche does an amazing job here as we see her struggle and fight her way to ensure the girl’s safety.
And speaking of the young girl, Leila, this is definitely a breakout performance from Hala Finley. Finley starts off somewhat as a quiet, scared victim. However, within the first ten minutes she shows her strong side as she shoots down the trafficker who was supposed to pick her up, which leads to a domino effect as both she and Sally find themselves targeted by not only fellow truckers but also the FBI, which brings to mind the buddy action concept of the film.
Pairing Morgan Freeman and Cameron Monaghan as the retired FBI agent and his young rookie partner brings to mind a buddy action-comedy aspect to things. Freeman is always great to watch and does it again here as a smart-mouthed veteran pulled into one last case while Monaghan is the green agent who comes with a by the book no-nonsense attitude. Despite their different personalities, they do work well when it all calls for it in some pivotal moments. Not to mention that Frank Grillo makes the most of his screen time as Dennis, Sally’s brother who is gearing up for a release from prison.
Paradise Highway is a powerful yet entertaining film from Anna Gutto. Juliette Binoche gives off a riveting against type performance and Hala Finley is destined for greatness and this role is the beginning to that destiny.
WFG RATING: A-
Lionsgate and Grindhouse Entertainment presents a Praesens-Film/Silver Reel production in association with ZDF Enterprises. Director: Anna Gutto. Producers: Anna Gutto, Georgia Bayliff, Cluadia Bluemhuber, and Mike Leahy. Writer: Anna Gutto. Cinematography: John Christian Rosenlund. Editing: Christian Siebenherz.
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Frank Grillo, Hala Finley, Cameron Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Veronica Ferres, Christiane Seidel, Jackie Dallas, Tommie Early Jenkins.
The film will be released in select theaters, VOD, and Digital on July 29.