Following the brilliant Prisoners (2013), Denis Villeneuve is back with Sicario, a thriller about the USA’s war on drugs, domestically and in Mexico. We follow Emily Blunt’s idealistic FBI rookie, Kate, as she becomes recruited into a morally murky task force aimed at taking down a Mexican drug cartel.
The story of Sicario is part of its undoing; it becomes too largely scoped and somewhat unfocused, becoming very similar to Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000) in that respect. It occasionally knows when to focus on something, but the focus is inconsistent.
Blunt leads the film greatly, playing the trope of our look-in to this world and how things work. We learn of everything as she does, meaning she and the audience are on the same track. It’s a convention that Villeneuve works very well with and Blunt plays the part equally as good. Never is she unscathed by events, however, becoming fragile and damaged by everything.
Blunt receives great support from Josh Brolin who plays the slimy task force leader. Also, we have Benicio Del Toro stealing the show in which his performance as a mysterious character, whose intentions are unknown to Kate, is incredible. He is a calculated character that is both enigmatic and fascinating. One of his scenes in particular is one of the best this year, proving to be bold and impressive. Like in Traffic, Del Toro certainly hogs the limelight.
Arguably, the finest aspect of this film is its cinematography. Roger Deakins reunites with Villeneuve to create some of his best work yet. Some shots in this film are just amazing, effectively utilising landscapes and silhouettes. It also manages to innovatively film flying scenes. If cinematography is something you appreciate, put aside your copy of Only God Forgives (2013) and see Sicario.
The action in this film is not frequent but it is very authentic. During one certain shootout, it’s very frenetic and works like a charm; the darkness is filled with miscellaneous gunshots and jarring camera angles. It throws you off and makes you unsure of what’s happening, putting you diretly into the shoes of Blunt. In addition, the score booms and maintains tension, making the moment all the more memorable.
The story develops nicely, creating a spectacular final 15 minutes which tackles a sensitive topic. Unfortunately, the topic doesn’t come off very well and Villeneuve inevitably backs himself into a corner when it comes to making a statement with Sicario‘s thematics.
Overall, Sicario is an effective thriller that manages to keep you entertained for the whole runtime. It’s considerably dark, making it stand out alongside other similar contemporary films such as Camp X-Ray (2014) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012). Though I didn’t like this as much as the two aforementioned films, it’s nevertheless a solid thriller that proves Villeneuve is far from breaking his track record of excellence. The talk of a sequel is very exciting as it has been revealed that it will focus on a certain character from this film; my enthusiasm for this sequel should indicate which character it will focus on.
What did you think of Sicario?
Comment with your thoughts.
– Luke Compton