Sicario is the kind of the film that you just don’t want to end. The story, characters and immersive gun-fights had me hooked, and I would honestly pay dividends for an extended cut. Sicario is a brilliant thriller, which takes the viewer on an intense journey through Mexico, where we are aligned with FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), who has been enlisted by a government task force, to aid in the escalating War On Drugs.
If you’ve seen Enemy, Prisoners, or most recently Arrival, then you’ll know that Denis Villeneuve loves nothing more than exploring themes of duality and moral uncertainty and to give viewers lots to think about. In Sicario, he continues with his unique form of storytelling and creating a murky atmosphere. He delivers a slow-burning plot that is so tense, that you become fearful for the implosion. Villeneuve is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors. He has established such a distinctive style, as all his films have recurring traits.
Sicario treads on familiar ground, as US/Mexican drug wars have been depicted one-screen many times over the years, especially now we’re in a post-Breaking Bad era. But it’s the detailed, perceptive nature and its unfolding action that elevates it out of the ordinary. It doesn’t have any random action or violence that feels unnecessary. But instead, the film is interested in how this violent world affects the characters internally. It challenges our sensibilities by giving the viewer uncertainties and shocks at every corner.
As the film is mostly from the perspective of Emily Blunt’s FBI agent, we learn things as she does. So, just like her, it’s not made clear to the viewer either what the exact mission is. We know that Kate and the team of DEA agents and US Marshals are targeting a powerful Mexican cartel, but we’re left in the dark about how exactly they plan to attack them.
The entire film revels in darkness within its immoral landscape. We the audience cannot by any means relate to what we’re watching, so the world we’re presented with feels almost post-apocalyptic. We’re given an insight into a shadowy underworld and Kate is the only moral compass we can cling to. I’ve never paid much attention to Emily Blunt, but I enjoyed her performance. I thought she pulled off the difficult task of making a character feel real while playing the role of an audience surrogate.
However, it’s Del Toro who has the most enticing role as Alejandro Gillick, a twisted and merciless DEA agent and my god, his acting is on another level. Both Blunt and Del Toro contribute to some seriously brilliant scenes, that are now so ingrained in my mind. I won’t be forgetting them anytime soon.
Sicario is quite simply a brilliant film. It’s a gritty, hard-edged thriller that I think is almost flawless. Certain narrative threads and the film’s tone require a high degree of concentration, so it’s not one of those easy-going thrillers. I don’t think it’s the kind of film you can start watching randomly one afternoon because if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to get lost.
Above all, Sicario is a terrific movie that is filled with so much tension and darkness, you might just feel slightly haunted by the end of it.
Quoted: “You saw things you shouldn’t have seen.”
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro.
Distributor: Lionsgate (Theatrical)
Run Time: 121 min