Director Denis Villeneuve returns with Sicario, a story about the Mexican drug trade, its effect on America, and the people doing something about it. It is also one of the best films of the year.
Kate (Emily Blunt) is an FBI agent dealing with kidnappings. Since she works in Arizona, a border state with Mexico, a lot of work she does involves the Mexican drug cartels as they push deeper into the United States. She is recruited by Matt (Josh Brolin), a man in charge of a task force looking to shake the tree a little bit and see if they can knock out some of the bigger drug trade targets. Matt has a mysterious associate, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), who doesn’t offer Kate any of the answers she’s looking for, but seems to have taken a liking to her nonetheless. As Matt’s team leaves the States and operates in Mexico, Kate wonders what she has gotten involved in. The deeper she goes down the rabbit hole, the more she questions her ethics and morals as she comes to terms with how far she’ll go to cripple the Mexican cartels. The cost could be her humanity.
I won’t reveal any more of the plot, but just know that while watching Sicario, you’ll feel much like Kate—in the dark—until she herself starts demanding answers. What Villeneuve has delivered is a taut, tense thriller that is absolutely riveting. I was on the edge of my seat for about the last thirty minutes, not knowing where the plot would twist next. Also be advised, this is a film that does not shy away from violence and tough decisions for the characters. I got a very Cormac McCarthy feel from the whole endeavor, but that may have had a lot to do with the fact that legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins brought his exceptional skills to another of Villeneuve’s films. The two worked together on the stellar Prisoners and Deakins was also the cinematographer in the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-winning adaptation of McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. Deakins’ camerawork is a thing of beauty and very inventive in a key scene that takes place at a tunnel that crosses the U.S.-Mexico border. Everything is tied together by a great, pitch-black script from Taylor Sheridan. Also, the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson is simply haunting and underscores the dark material perfectly.
The cast is absolutely stellar in this one. Blunt continues her great work from last year’s Edge of Tomorrow, where she showed she could indeed stand toe-to-toe with the men in action fare. Her part in Sicario was almost re-written for a man, but thankfully, we’re able to see another great performance from her in a role that’s not traditionally “a woman’s role.” My only nitpick is that I wanted to see a little more development of her character. She truly serves as the audience’s eyes, but we lose her perspective a little bit when the film delves more into Del Toro’s character. Del Toro is magnetic as Alejandro as you watch him work and try to ascertain just whose side he’s on. His character is just so cool and enigmatic. Brolin brings an affable air to his no-nonsense character. There was also an unintentionally hilarious moment in the film where Brolin essentially says that he is the decider, something that called back to his role as George W. Bush in Oliver Stone’s W. Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Donovan, and Daniel Kaluuya all put in nice appearances with Kaluuya playing Blunt’s FBI partner.
I don’t want to go into too many details so as not to spoil the film, but just know that Sicario is hands down one of the best films of the year. The film is very dark with only brief moments of levity, but the story is captivating. Villeneuve is fast becoming one of my favorite filmmakers and he takes all the pieces he’s given here and creates an absolute home run of a movie. If you’re a fan of adult thrillers with a dark edge, do yourself a favor and check out Sicario.
Sicario opens wide on October 2, 2015.
Yes, very much a Cormac McCarthy feel. No surprise that Deakins’ cinematography reminded me of his work on No Country for Old Men. Great review.
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