Blunt truth of war on drugs
Every once in a while a movie just grabs you and, from the moment you leave the cinema, you can’t wait to see it again. Sicario is one such film.
Canadian Denis Villeneuve’s (Prisoners, Enemy) tour de force focuses on the war on drugs at the border area between America and Mexico through the eyes of idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt).
Starting as it means to go on, a jaw-dropping opening sees a grisly find behind the walls of a house and headstrong arresting officers throwing up the contents of their lunch.
Sicario is not an easy watch as Villeneuve and debut writer Taylor Sheridan refuse to sugarcoat the troubling subject matter.
More stark imagery follows and murky morals colour certain characters in more than 50 shades of grey as the so-called good guys use torture and intimidation to get what they want.
Only Kate and friend and colleague Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) attempt to stay on the correct side of right and wrong – but normally to no avail.
Blunt is the audience’s eyes and ears as she’s led on a haunting two-hour journey. The Londoner is no stranger to strong roles and this is one of her finest, most demanding turns yet.
Kate is virtually the only woman on show but is afforded little appreciation and understanding as she is put through mental and physical hell. It’s no wonder she works her way through packets of cigarettes.
Benicio Del Toro is in top form as mysterious consultant Alejandro. Initially stand-offish and near-mute, he develops into the film’s most memorable character and is absolutely phenomenal in nerve-shredding latter scenes.
Josh Brolin’s (Matt Graver) evasive, loose and cocky lead agent brings a little bit of levity as a deliberately annoying presence – especially to Kate – and Jon Bernthal (Ted), Victor Garber (Dave) and Jeffrey Donovan (Steve) make the most of their limited screen time.
In what is often a dialogue-heavy movie, Villeneuve makes sure he packs a punch with his visual style behind the camera.
Stunning bird’s-eye views show the ground below as vast and, at times, monstrous, with craters looking like they’re baring their teeth. A literal storm brews late on and a Zero Dark Thirty-style raid is beautifully filmed using silhouettes and night and thermal vision. Roger Deakins’s cinematography is crammed with luscious landscapes and a throbbing, hypnotic score from Johann Johannsson matches the film’s edge and brutality step for step.
Villeneuve knows his stuff when it comes to action set pieces too. Witness an edgy freeway scene that ends in a stark show of force and what comes of a wristband being dropped onto a table.
From the first scene to the last, Sicario is a supreme exercise in tension that rates as not only Villeneuve’s best work yet but one of the year’s finest flicks.
Testing times Emily Blunt’s FBI agent leads the way in Sicario