Review: Sicario (Denis Villeneuve, 2015, U.S.A)

Starring – Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, John Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya

Sicario, 2015.

It’s a concept we’ve seen a million times before: Good cop witnesses atrocities, good cop joins shady group to put an end to said atrocities, good cop discovers they might not be on the right side of the law, good cop tries to stop misdoings. That’s the funny thing about Sicario, if you pull all of its pieces apart one-by-one, then it’s not exactly unique or imaginative. But that doesn’t matter. Every actor and every shot is so incredibly engrossing, that you completely forget the formula – you’re totally drawn in.

The film opens with Emily Blunt’s character Kate Mercer performing a ram-raid on a known property with ties to a Mexican drug cartel. Things don’t quite end up as expected, and she begins to see with blinding clarity that kicking in doors won’t reach the guys on the top. So when her actions are noticed by government higher-ups, she’s enlisted to join a specialist task force that give her the assurance they’ll get a chance at “the real guys behind this”. After a particularly bloody trip to Juárez, Kate begins to see that maybe the people she’s with aren’t necessarily the good guys, and that she might be entering a world which she’s far from familiar with.

 

The first thing you’ll notice about this unexpectedly brilliant movie is how beautiful it looks. You’d be forgiven for thinking rotting corpses hidden in walls was a normal sight when delivered in such a stylised and enthralling way.  There are a few shots in particular that manage to tell far more than pages of dialogue ever could, and they’re intensely impressive. Not a single frame is wasted in Sicario, and that’s precisely how it should be.

 

Emily Blunt in the lead role is a perfect fit, as she manages to portray exactly what the viewer is feeling; we don’t honestly know who these people are, or if they’re even within the law, and neither does she. However, the absolute star of the show has to be Benicio Del Toro as the sinister and enigmatic Alejandro. From the first time we see him, Del Toro leaves you full of questions that might not be resolved. Not only does he add to the disconcertingly mysterious tone of the movie, but his guarded motives are one of the things that keep you watching so intently. Josh Brolin also delivers a strong performance as Kate’s polar opposite with the character of Matt Graver; a gung-ho fighter who never fails to see the funny side amongst the mangled corpses. 

And if we’re going to cover all of our bases, then I ought to point out just how perfectly the movie is scored. Before we even catch a glimpse of Juárez, we already know how dangerous it is from a long, panning shot of the mountains accompanied by music that wouldn’t seem out of place in any horror flick. You genuinely fear for Kate’s life as she’s violently thrown into a world she neither understands, nor can put an end to. The film ends on a similarly bleak note that’ll leave you with plenty to think about.

If you’re going in to Sicario for an out-an-out popcorn flick, then you’re better off looking elsewhere. This is heavy content, and it’s delivered in a style that perfectly suits just that; violence is visceral and destructive, not glamorous. If you think you can stomach it, though, then it’s well worth your time.

Written by Kieran McLoone
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