Sicario, Denis Villeneuve’s fantastic film deals with drug smuggling cartel rings operating in the US.
It is a formidable piece of work, which kept me on the edge of my seat. The drug smuggling cartel story has become somewhat of a cliché but Villeneuve’s direction and fantastic central performances by Blunt, Brolin and del Toro elevate the go to story of an FBI agent (Blunt) dragged into Brolin’s murky and morally questionable government task force run into something very special indeed.
Villeneuve uses his greatest assets to his advantage: Sheridan’s well-written script allows the characters outer skins to peel away as the drama of the plot unfolds, thickens and darkens. This lets the actors to perform without hamming it up or overplaying the drama of the scene. The camera frequently rests on his actors and Villeneuve avoids cutting the performances up. He stands back and lets Blunt guide us through the world in a confident manner, without her performance the film would fall apart. Brolin is at home as the cocksure team leader, who is introduced to the audience obnoxiously wearing flip-flops in a meeting. Del Toro’s quiet performance remains very ambiguous throughout the film; it is only at the end that we are able to get a full grasp of his character.
An early set piece, a drive in to Juarez, Mexico, is elaborately staged; absolutely every possible ounce of tension is wrung from glances between characters and helicopter shots of the convoy, so much so that it becomes unbearable when the action grinds to a halt in a traffic jam. Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ominous and looming score augments the tension in the film, which is reminiscent of the score in Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible, it’s bubbling and rumbling synths mesh with brass instruments and echoing percussion in a way that sends shivers down spines and puts butterflies in stomachs. Roger Deakins’ sublime photography captures all of the grit and dirt in the sand. In one scene, he breathtakingly manages to evoke the natural drama of a sunset and keep the action silhouetted in the foreground.
Sicario is a film that will have a very long shelf life.
Like in his other films, Villeneuve’s superlative command of the frame and characters hooked me very early on and stayed with me long after the credits had rolled. It cannot recommend it more highly. I am eagerly awaiting his Blade Runner sequel; I cannot wait to see how his unique eye will capture a steam punk sci-fi setting.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, written by Taylor Sheridan, 121mins
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