In Sicario we follow FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) as she gets a new assignment to help track down a top cartel boss, working alongside Josh Brolins gruff agent Matt Graver and Benicio Del Toros shady officer, they uncover a dark and fetid world beneath the Mexican border.
Sicario is a quietly terrifying, foreboding and grisly film that will leave you feeling wrung out and a tad awestruck. Director Denis Villeneuve has pulled together many excellent pieces into an engaging thriller that pulls no punches, and plunges us into the heart of darkness.
Emily Blunt is restrained and excellent, and surely a shoe in for an Oscar nod come awards season, as an honest agent, trying to hold it together. Her performance is precise and powerful, her character merely taking us on a journey, she is our eyes and our ears, and we feel every beat she takes.
Brolin and Del Toro lie behind layers of mystery and corruption, never to be trusted, but entirely a part of the world they inhabit, a world that is built upon an oppressive atmosphere of distrust and secrets. Their characters are key pieces, Del Toro is perhaps the driving force of the story, it’s him that we get to know, him that we see behind the mask.
The film starts with a fantastic sequence as the FBI burst into a house of horrors, arresting drug dealers, then but uncovering grisly things behind the walls, before we are thrust into the rest of the film. As we run through Sicario there is no drag to the story, no sluggishness or pace issues. It’s light, and nimble, with little flab and a full bloodied world building that makes you feel the grit under your nails as you claw through its black, raw exterior.
It’s directed with assured drive, written with precision and cast with a keen eye on how the actors can blend into the background. It’s a wonderfully well crafted film, and is, at times, a difficult watch, but enthralling none the less.
The films greatest joys are with its stunning cinematography and completely exhilarating score. Roger Deakins as DP has made every shot look like art, each colour is vibrant and beautiful as the camera glides over vast desert plains and around dusty dilapidated corners.
The films most stunning shot (above) features soldiers walking down a slope into a hole, their black silhouettes slowly descending merging into the black, as the sunset in the back of the show is breathtaking. It’s one of many wonderful artistic images that turn New Mexico and beyond into a place of almost otherworldly beauty, I can’t quite describe it.
The soundtrack is fantastic, Jóhann Jóhannsson, has created a suspenseful, pounding, unforgiving, dark and pervading score that echoes around the mind, rattling around and making us scared to go to sleep. It’s a driving force in the film, never haltering or letting up, giving tense scenes more tension and every moment of pain a jolt of empathy.
Sicario is in many ways more a horror than a thriller, when it begins with multiple shots of dead bodies, and continues by making you afraid of what’s around every corner, the sense of dread that looms over the film is the real bad guy. It’s something to behold, you really need to watch it to understand what makes it fantastic.
From Emily Blunts haunted performance, Roger Deakins dazzling cinematography and Jóhann Jóhannssons gripping score, Sicario is a powerhouse of a film, blistering to the last finale shots, which in my opinion are a succinct summation of the films biggest and most important themes.
Rating: B+ 8/10