Denis Villeneuve seems to really be hitting his stride. With Sicario, the level of tension is cranked to 11, building on the tense atmosphere that defined his effort in ‘Prisoners’ while adding some action and political commentary to spice things up. Sicario revolves around an idealistic FBI agent 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.
Firstly the writing was phenomenal! Taylor Sheridan demonstrated perfectly all the darkness brewing under the surface between drug cartels. He also showed that it takes both sides of the border to do these crimes. Thus demonstrating the evils of the U.S. and Mexico. Through this, it was made clear that the corruption and greed of the U.S. go hand and hand with the poverty and desperation of Mexico to the point of true unadulterated terror.
Sicario asks moral questions about justifying the means by the end, about the gray zone between right and wrong, about the collateral consequences of using violence against violence, about the way America is not able to understand the complexity of the world. In Sicario, Emily Blunt represents the strong moral and ethical principles that all government should respect, but that are progressively being destroyed. Denis Villeneuve’s movies are there to raise questions without giving answers. You won’t find in his movies the typical hero that we use to see in most of the action thrillers.
With mastery of the material Villeneuve painted all the characters a shade of gray before revealing their true selves. He accomplished this through beautiful camera work and magnificent shots. Denis Villeneuve (who is seriously the best director around this time) has reintroduced me to a genre that always grabs my attention and he has done it in a way that gives the audience an authentic depiction of life where drug cartels are the only reality for many people living in the border communities of Mexico. As the film simmers through the early scenes, building up tension, you begin to realise that nobody is who they say they are and not everything is what it seems to be. For those that remember Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Traffic’, this is very much in the same mould, but, whereas ‘Traffic’ looked at the drug trade on a larger scale, this story is much more personal when dealing with the narrative and its characters.
Thanks to Roger Deakins (GIVE THIS MAN AN OSCAR FOR GOD SAKE!!), we are treated to many beautiful aerial shots of Mexico, as well as shots of the massive slums of the city, as if to hammer home the point of how many people this violence affects. I lost count of the different camera techniques that were used, with a lot of odd framing used, while there are other sections where the camera zooms in past the point of pixelation. Together with Villenueve, they made each shot feel purposeful. It may be a 2-hour movie but it flies by and it doesn’t feel like a single shot was wasted. At one point we see what the agents are seeing: night-vision and thermal imaging devices dominate a couple of scenes and create an incredibly immersive experience that again ramps up that tension.
Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro each delivered fantastic performances. Emily Blunt – who played FBI agent Kate Macer, she not only was the only female lead in this film but she could be considered the strongest character too out of the three main characters, she played the more subtle performance but did a very good job at it. I will say that her performance in Sicario is one of the best of her career and I hope she’ll get the praise for it as well. Del Toro shined as the mysterious Colombian “Alejandro”. He was the most damaged & troubled character of the three and delivered one of the best most intriguing roles of his career. I could very well say that he was the best out of the three main characters. Josh Brolin who played task force leader “Matt” was well overshadowed by Blunt and Del Toro but however still did a superb acting job – which says a lot about the film.
The sound-editing/soundtrack here is also something that needs to be mentioned, as the work done is some of the best I have ever heard accompanying a film, period. Deafening silence dominates tense conversations where often barely a word is uttered as we wait on each word; while at other times the soundtrack booms and sounds truly dread-inducing, thanks to the work of Jóhann Jóhannsson, who also worked on ‘Prisoners’.
Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario” is one of the best films of 2015 so far. This was my and many other people’s most anticipated film of the year, and I can tell you that I wasn’t disappointed with what I got to see.