Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Maximiliano Hernández
Run Time: 121 mins
Denis Villeneuve is an extremely talented director who received recognition for 2011’s, ‘Incendies’ and then hit the big leagues with 2013’s masterpiece that was ‘Prisoners’. ‘Sicario’ (which is slang for ‘hitman’ in Mexican) deals with the subject of the Mexican Cartel and the FBI’s bid to tackle an escalating drug war. The film follows an FBI agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) who is sent to help but is constantly kept in the dark of what their purpose and goals really are. The film hit the big leagues when it competed at the Cannes Film Festival for the coveted Palme d’Or Award and critically has elevated Villeneuve’s status as a film director. With Villeneuve set to direct the upcoming sequel to ‘Blade Runner’, it is crucial that this film resonates with audiences to prove that he will do an admirable job with a sequel to a film that is so highly regarded.
‘Sicario’ is a near-perfect film that features some heart pounding action sequences and excellent performances, most notably from Benicio Del Toro who delivers a career-best performance and hopefully will attract attention in Awards Season. Villeneuve’s direction is superb and he has created a very gloomy, dark film that is extremely intense. It’s not quite as good as ‘Prisoners’ as it doesn’t have the same emotional punch and the ending is also a little muddled but in its own right is superbly crafted and paints a very bleak picture of Mexico as a country.
The story is gripping and features many twists and turns, particularly with the shady characters that are Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and his even more suspicious partner, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) who the audience are kept in the dark of what his true intentions are right until the very end. The film is told from Kate’s point of view which is excellent as we feel her frustration when she isn’t clear on what is happening and really helps to elevate the storytelling. However, the ending of the film shifts focus to a different character (no spoilers) and the film’s ending is extremely satisfying and morally conflicting but it does mean that the film ends up being a little disjointed in its ending as we have followed Kate’s perspective for so long and it is a bit of a shame to lose that feeling of ‘being in the dark’. As an ending in its own right, it’s still extremely satisfying.
The performances in the film are top-notch particularly as mentioned from Benicio Del Toro who plays his part of the shady operative, Alejandro, to a tee. He delivers an extremely cold performance and steals the show – this is his film through and through. Emily Blunt is very good in the main role and is very easy to empathise with her character’s situation but for some reason, I couldn’t help but think that Rooney Mara would be better suited to the role. Josh Brolin is also very good here as is the rest of the supporting cast.
The film contains some exhilarating action sequences to its merit, the highlight being what is possibly the one of the most intense traffic jams in cinematic history and very creative use of night vision for an action sequence set underground.
‘Sicario’ demonstrates another masterful pairing between Villeneuve and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins, who is still yet to win an Academy Award. Jóhannsson’s score is stunning and not only fits the film but also works as a soundtrack in its own right. The cinematography is also very fitting, but I don’t think this film will earn Deakins the Oscar as there’s better competition this year.
Overall, ‘Sicario’ is another hit for Villeneuve and he will hopefully be better recognised from more mainstream audiences. He is one of the best directors working today and is extremely consistent with the quality of his films. Although this doesn’t quite have the emotional punch that made ‘Prisoners’ a masterpiece, ‘Sicario’ boasts some excellent performances with a scene-stealing Benicio Del Toro and some stunning action sequences. I am confident that Villeneuve is the right person for the sequel to ‘Blade Runner’ and he will hopefully create something extremely original and thought-provoking. Between now and then, he still has one more film slated to prove himself currently titled, ‘Story Of Your Life’ which will be released next year which is a sci-fi film – a good indication of what the ‘Blade Runner’ sequel will turn out to be. ‘Sicario’ is a very impressive film and is one of the best films of the year.