Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Jon Bernthal, Maximillano Hernandez and Daniel Kaluuya.
An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.
Do the ends justify the means? Sicario isn’t out to answer that question (director Denis Villeneuve has even mentioned so during interviews prior to its Cannes premiere), but rather showcase the illegal and gritty measures enforced on both sides of the border during the US/Mexico war against drugs. As depicted throughout the tense action thriller, doing things by the book is obviously the moral high route, but what is it actually accomplishing compared to more clandestine and nefarious methods, and more importantly, are crucial results worth becoming a monster for? Furthermore, what effects do these actions have on the citizens caught in the middle of something so ugly and dangerous (a subplot that very few directors have the skill to weave into the grander scheme of things, let alone winding up allowing for some of the strongest takeaways from the film).
Villeneuve uses Kate (Emily Blunt) as both a protagonist and vessel to pose these questions to audiences. Her comfort zone is kidnapping rescues, but after a mission goes south with a few fellow teammates meeting death in the line of duty, she accepts the opportunity to cooperate with a special forces unit in locating and apprehending the Mexican cartel kingpin responsible.
The beauty of Sicario however is that, much like Kate, we’re not really clear who she’s working for or what the true intentions of this top-secret government unit really are. As viewers, we ask the same questions Kate asks, consistently wonder alongside her if she’s even on something even close to being considered a good side, and feel every bit of strenuous moral pain and paranoia radiating across her superbly articulated facial expressions and mannerisms. The desire to know the truth consumes Kate and audiences alike thanks to a performance that easily propels her to Best Actress contention.
Kate’s shadowy superiors however are as equally important, delivering fantastic complementary performances. Josh Brolin has a charismatic approach to his off the record ways of doing business, but it’s Benicio Del Toro portraying a calm and collected yet seemingly haunted older man with a wealth of knowledge of how things work around the border, that simply ends up snatching Sicario for his own throughout the final act. Without saying too much, there is a dinner table scene for the ages; one that absolutely smokes Johnny Depp’s terrifying dinner table scene we just saw a short week ago in Black Mass. The Academy should just introduce a new, special award specifically for 2015: Most Suspenseful Dinner Table Scene.
Joking aside, Sicario truly is a three-chamber piece wringing out arguably career-best performances in Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and to a lesser extent, Josh Brolin. That’s not to say that the minor supporting roles that crop up every once in a while don’t matter, but that those three turns are all A-game material. Also keep in mind, some clueless studio executive was originally pestering Villeneuve to rewrite the part of Kate for a man, proving once again that directors should retain as much creative control as possible.
Sicario also boasts an incredible score that almost feels designed to make viewers feel uncomfortable, and disgustingly dirty in need of a shower after the credits roll. Extended action sequences such as the convoy transportation of a high-level target from Mexico back to America are unquestionably heightened with suspense. It’s almost as if someone took the usual Hans Zimmer overbearing loud beats and twisted it into something much more sinister and more akin to a horror film, which ultimately works considering that Sicario delves into some truly horrifying realities.
There’s also the cinematography from Roger Deakins, which goes without saying is stunning whether it’s capturing overhead desert shots, multiple viewpoints of rundown streets of Mexico filled with gang activity and spray-painted buildings, to exquisite shootouts perfectly framed so viewers always know what is occurring. Sometimes these scenes are given a stylistic touch with thermonuclear vision and pitch-green night vision. Even the most seemingly simplest scenes, like characters slowly embarking into a completely dark tunnel of nothingness have a lasting impact thanks to some masterclass lighting techniques.
I don’t have a single complaint with Sicario. It’s compelling from the opening raid scene to the grand finale full of narrative realizations and unforgettable moments of rage. Sweat will drip from your hands during the final 20 minutes with tension beyond palpable as you witness what will wind up being one of the most talked about scenes in all of cinema. However, Sicario is more than the sum of one scene; shocking with an arresting and haunting tone, the action is balanced with a stimulating outlook on what’s going on between borders.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook