Sicario (Denis Villeneuve, 2015)

Sicario is likely to appeal to a very niche audience. Concerning the Mexican drug crisis, it doesn’t go the patriotic route of putting America up on a pedestal, but nor will it be entirely accessible for all. The first comment from a guy in my row at the conclusion of this film was “it was a bit pretentious”, and while I wouldn’t describe it as such, I get where he was coming from.

Nothing to see here.
Nothing to see here.

FBI agent Kate (Emily Blunt) is enlisted to work with a government taskforce in the war against drugs on the US/Mexico border. Approaching the operation with her ideals and morals intact, she is kept in the dark in regards to the exact nature of their mission. I can’t say I completely followed the plot, but suffice to say, drugs are bad and there are dodgy people on all sides.

People. Doing... something.
People. Doing… something.

Director Denis Villeneuve’s last effort Prisoners was a compelling film, and one that did things a little differently. Scenes you’d expect to be included in a film about the kidnapping of children were omitted (the first call to the cops, the reunion between father and daughter) and while these sorts of artistic choices were unusual, they made sense. Villeneuve does not seem to be a director who is concerned with going the usual route. Sicario contains very lengthy, drawn-out scenes (including one which feels highly reminiscent of Zero Dark Thirty), which will be thrilling for some, and dull for others. Some of the shots are almost frustrating, but it’s clear he was aiming for us to be right with our protagonist, Kate. We often are privy to her perspective, and in one instance this is downright terrifying, especially for female viewers.

No, not the scene from Psycho.
No, not the scene from Psycho.

Villeneuve was reportedly asked early on by producers to have Emily Blunt’s character rewritten as a man. Because there aren’t enough male roles in Hollywood, obviously. Thankfully, he did not acquiesce, but there goes its Oscar chances because female lead = no Oscar for you. Emily Blunt is undoubtedly a queen of the screen, and is a formidable lead. Josh Brolin contributes some swagger as the government official who doesn’t go by the book, and Benicio Del Toro is haunting as the mysterious Alejandro. Don’t cross that guy.

Benicio's only crime is looking SHARP.
Benicio’s only crime is looking SHARP.

The cinematography by Roger Deakins is stunning, whilst Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything) delivers a heart-pounding score to maintain the tension. Sicario isn’t the easiest film to follow, nor will its lack of resolution be appreciated by all, but hey, that’s reality. If anything, a core message about the loss of innocent life is made clear, and that should hit home with everyone.

3.5 stars

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