Reviewer: Luke Walkley
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Jon Berthal,
Released: 9th October 2015 (UK)
It takes an awful lot for me to become uncomfortable in my seat during a film. I’ve seen gruesome deaths, limbs blown off and even people joined at parts of the body that shouldn’t be joined (all during films, I promise), yet somehow Sicario gave me one of the most uncomfortable, yet exhilarating experiences of any movie of the last few years.
Directed by Prisoners and Enemy helmer, Denis Villeneuve, Sicario follows FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) who after working on a number of drug-related murders, takes up the opportunity to work as part of a Governement task-force led by Matt (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) tracking the Mexican Cartel responsible. However after witnessing a series of shady and unexpected events, Kate along with FBI partner Reggie (Daniel Kayuula) realise they’ve not been told the whole truth and are in way over their heads.
Villeneuve is no stranger to the Crime Drama genre and within fifteen minutes of Sicario it’s clear we’re not going to be in for an easy ride. It’s loud, it’s graphic and it’s in your face. introducing us to Kate and Reggie, showcasing her potential and the interest in her from those higher up. Matt (Brolin) is an unconventional leader, but is highly respected by his peers and it’s his relationship with Alejandro (Del Toro) that is the cause for the most interest from both Kate and the audience.
The film flicks back and forth from vast open shots of places like Arizona and the US/Mexico border to the squashed and cramped towns of Mexico itself. Roger Deakins provides the films cinematography and between Deakins and Villeneuve (the pair responsible for the next Blade Runner movie) the film looks spectacular as it makes this transition from vast landscapes to closed rooms. A effect which really comes to the fore during the films final third.
Blunt delivers a strong performance as Kate, managing to be both a strong character whilst also becoming frustratingly submissive at certain points – a testament to her acting. The likes of Brolin and Jon Bernthal, who pops up around the mid-point as an old friend of Reggies, are all effective in carrying the narrative along, with Brolin’s arrogant son-of-a-bitch character being arrogant and likeable in equal measure. However, it’s Del Toro’s Alejandro who will live longest in the memory. Not since The Usual Suspects has he delivered such an all-round performance as he does here. Aljandro is mysterious, dangerous and even strangely compassionate throughout, leaving Kate and the viewer attempting to work him out. He’s a closed book, impossible to read and pretty much spot-on as a bad-ass.
Sicario feels different, whether it’s from the opening that pulls no punches or just the overall concept of the film, it’s hard to tell, but upon reflection it’s hard to think of a crime-drama that was better in recent years. It’s built on a strong foundation with Villeneuve’s directing from debutant Taylor Sheridan’s writing (Sheridan’s previous acting work includes Sons of Anarchy and Veronica Mars) whilst Deacons cinematography compliments the latter perfectly.
Unfaltering and unnerving throughout, Sicario is one of the best crime films of the past five years.