Sicario | Denis Villeneuve | September 18, 2015
Denis Villeneuve has never been the type for theatricality. Films such as Prisoners and Enemy were tightly wound thrillers with minimalism that pummeled your head directly. Villeneuve’s newest film Sicario musters the same belongings as his previous films but to greater effect.
Sicario starts off in Chandler, Arizona where the FBI’s Special Weapons and Tactics team undergo a kidnapping raid led by agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt). Through the raid, they find dozens and dozens of corpses and IED in a shed, which explodes, killing two officers. After the incident, Macer is introduced to a contractor named Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), who explains to her that what she saw was work done by a Mexican cartel. She is invited by Graver to go deeper into the investigation. As Macer’s cause evolves, she is lured by Graver and his partner Alejandro (Benecio Del Toro), a mysterious man with a great propensity to break the rules, into breaking her jurisdiction and going to Juarez, furthering both causes. Macer, an idealistic agent realizes that the further she goes into the case, the less transparent everything becomes.
Tyler Sheridan (you may know him as Sheriff Hale from Sons of Anarchy) pens his first screenplay in Sicario with ease. From the start of the movie, he wastes no time having the viewer immersed in the current war on drugs. Once you are in this world, you are immediately glued on with Villeneuve’s style of directing. Themes of right and wrong are displayed through the eyes of protagonists, antagonists and the grey middle. The moments between Macer and Alejandro are the most thought-provoking, whilst they both play good in their own respective rights.
Emily Blunt has played the bonafide badass in Looper and Edge of Tomorrow. She brings the same element in Sicario but with greater depth. As Kate Macer, we see her as a tough, do-good and moral character, but one who is extremely vulnerable. Throughout the movie, we see her morality questioned as she goes deeper and deeper. For us, it is exhausting to see Blunt keep her mind and body composed in the search for higher justice. In her previous action movies, we see her external performance but in Sicario, we witness both the exterior and interior, and it is her best work to date.
The chemistry between Blunt and Del Toro is one of the best I have seen in quite some time. Imagine a cat and mouse chase but there is nowhere to be chased. Macer doesn’t buy into Alejandro’s true motives, but he is so smooth and manipulative that you have no other choice but to believe him. Del Toro is a master of screen manipulation; the easy going, soft-spoken voice, the dead assurance look to his eyes. Is he good or is he bad? Del Toro toys with Blunt and the audience the whole movie.
Overall, Sicario is an extremely tight, focused and grim look on the current war on drugs. Villeneuve’s work behind the camera is enhanced by the cinematography of Roger Deakins. The scene when Macer and her team enter Juarez kept me on edge for over thirty minutes. The pace, the pan outs of the cars driving through the desert and handheld close-ups when entering the vicious city had my heart jarring. Sit through and enjoy Sicario. It is an intense and thought-provoking thriller wrapped around a grenade.