A first-rate art-house thriller, “Miss Bala” tells the strange, seemingly impossible story of a Mexican beauty queen who becomes the accidental pawn of a drug cartel. It’s an adventure story that could be called a contemporary picaresque if it weren’t so deadly serious, and might be called fantastical if it weren’t loosely based on a true story of a former Miss Hispanic America. One day a beautiful young woman, Laura, is trying to enter the Miss Baja contest; a few hours later she’s cowering in a nightclub, dodging gunfire and gangsters who bequeath her another title, Miss Bala — Miss Bullet. And thus Laura's aspirations of becoming a beauty queen turn against her, delivering her into the hands of a gang that's terrorizing northern Mexico. Although Laura succeeds in winning the beauty queen crown, her experiences as an unwilling participant in Mexico's violent war leave her shaken and transformed.