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NAGA (2023)

NAGA (2023)

R

An irreverent, dizzying teen thriller debut on the sands of Saudi Arabia

7.2

Movie

Saudi Arabia, United States of America
Arabic, English
Comedy, Drama, Horror, Thriller
2023
MESHAL ALJASER
Adwa Bader, Amal Alharbi, Jubran Al Jubran
113 min

TLDR

Nothing's scarier than getting the wrath of your conservative parents, except maybe a vicious camel out for your blood.

What it's about

After sneaking out of her parents’ home for a date, Sarah gets stranded amid Riyadh's desert dunes, and must get past a vindictive camel and heartaches in order to make it home before curfew.

The take

Teen thrillers are fun, but there’s only so many times you can enjoy the warnings to not sneak out at night, to not give into peer pressure, and to not trust random strangers. NAGA is another teen night gone wrong, but unlike the regular suburban dangers, Sarah deals with, of all things, a vindictive camel out for blood, on top of teenage hijinks and other dangers women face in the conservative country of Saudi Arabia. While there are a tad too many events and some visuals might prove too dizzying for some viewers, NAGA is such a wild ride that’s so fun to follow.

What stands out

NAGA isn’t exactly the action-filled thriller we’re used to, but there’s something so unique about the approach of this directorial debut. Naga doesn’t have a kidnapping for ransom or a murder to solve, but Meshal Al Jaser is able to tap into the pure terror of a night out gone wrong. Even before the vicious camel, there’s already a certain tremor in knowing there will be consequences if Sarah is late. Meeting up with a guy is treated like a spy movie, as Sarah peers through fabric rolls to check if her dad is gone. On top of this, the echoes on the desert ridge, the shine of spiked coffee, and rumors about camel behavior hint at the terrors ahead. Paired with Adwa Bader’s self-assured delivery, dizzying visuals, and that excellent score, NAGA is a startlingly thrilling debut to watch.

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