SICARIO [2015]

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Dennis Villeneuve seems to really be hitting his stride. While it wasn’t perfect, I loved the tension of Prisoners, and I loved the weirdness of his most recent output, Enemy, both starring Jake Gyllenhaal. With Sicario, the level of tension is cranked to 11, building on the tense atmosphere that defined Prisoners while adding some action and political commentary to spice things up. While the story is simple enough, as it unfolds the film is subtly commenting on the US-led War on Drugs, and not only its ineffectiveness, but what it can (and has) done to other countries caught in the crossfire. This is made especially clear in the final scenes. Sicario also must be commended for shining a light so intensely on what is in reality an ugly situation. None of us really know the true influence of their neighbours to the north over their country, but there is no doubt that Mexico is a violent place. In my humble opinion, leading a ‘war’ on drugs simply leads to more criminal activity – and this is certainly evident in the way Mexican Drug Cartels operate. Despite all this, this is not primarily a political film – it doesn’t have an agenda. No sides are being taken here.

This lack of bias affects the action in a positive way, as Sicario does not shy away from the often gruesome nature of what goes on in these situations, and doesn’t attempt to place any political blame on anyone. The action simply continues to move.

The plot is simple but effective. Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a dedicated and loyal police officer. But at the start of the film her team stumble into a house whose walls are literally filled with rotting corpses; murders that are related to the actions of the Mexican cartel. If this film has a weak spot it is Blunt’s character – she doesn’t really progress from the green, idealistic officer that she is at the start of the film. Following the discovery of this house, she is offered a change of job – a chance to really make a difference. She is hesitant but is always motivated by what she thinks is right and accepts the new assignment.

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Blunt’s Kate Macer is the moral compass of a movie that is filled with immoral behaviour, and despite the lack of development for her character, she does an excellent job.

The new unit Kate begins to work for don’t treat her seriously because of these idealistic attitudes and her ‘rookie’ status. The unit features a hilarious Josh Brolin as Matt, a mysterious man whose employer is never made clear, and also a man who often makes inappropriate comments given the context, causing me to laugh in a very similar way to the way violent Coen films make me giggle. But if we are talking about mysterious characters, we can’t ignore a supremely intense turn by Benicio Del Toro – off the top of my head I can only think of Fear and Loathing as a film where he played such an intense role and was so immersed in his character.

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He is known simply as Alejandro, and if the motives of Matt are shrouded in clouds, those of Alejandro are buried. It is this mystery that makes much of the movie a guessing game, as we try to pinpoint each characters’ true intentions. All we know is that their operation has something to do with the southern US border and the Mexican Drug Cartels that seem to operate on both sides.

After Prisoners, which suffered from a slightly overlong screenplay, Villeneuve has tightened the screws and has created a well-paced film, in fact the pacing feels perfect. When watching this film you get a sense that those behind the scenes really know what they are doing. The cinematography is also something worth mentioning: thanks to DOP Richard Deakins, we are treated to many beautiful aerial shots of Mexico, as well as shots of the massive slums of the city, as if to hammer home the point of how many people this violence affects. I lost count of the different camera techniques that were used, with a lot of odd framing used, while there are other sections where the camera zooms in past the point of pixelation. Each scene, each shot feels purposeful. It may be a 2-hour movie but it flies by and it doesn’t feel like a single shot was wasted.

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At one point we see what the agents are seeing: night-vision and thermal imaging devices dominate a couple of scenes and create an incredibly immersive experience that again ramps up that tension. The sound-editing/soundtrack here is also something that needs to be mentioned, as the work done here is some of the best I have ever heard accompanying a film, period. unnamed

Deafening silence dominates tense conversations where often barely a word is uttered as we wait on each word; while at other times the soundtrack booms and sounds truly dread-inducing, thanks to the work of Jóhann Jóhannsson, who also worked on Prisoners.

The sound of gunfire sounded incredible also – there are a few violent set-pieces and they are executed as well as I have ever seen for a film of this nature. This movie isn’t messing around.

Sicario is definitely one of the best so far this year. Only half a beer short of a six pack. Go see it now!!

5.5/6

Have you seen this one yet? What did you think?

58 Comments on “SICARIO [2015]

  1. Great post, I am really looking forward to seeing this one! I loved Incendies and Enemy (Prisoners not so much; as you noted above, it suffered from overlong script) and I am also a big fan of Emily Blunt… so I’m pretty certain I will really like this film. 🙂

    And I am not sure if this is new or not, but I just now noticed it – I absolutely love your rating system! I mean, a six pack? Genius. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup this is the first movie I rated with my new rating system! 😛 My lil sis designed the graphic for me, she is great

      Man, if you like Enemy and Incendies, and you like Emily Blunt, you’ll LOVE this one. Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh yes, this was pretty brilliant. Intense, tight, sharply constructed. Benicio’s performance is one of my favorite’s of the year and the film too is easily one of the year’s best.

    Great review, as always man.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Allie! My ranking system is brand new, this is my first post to use it. I think it is properly Aussie ;D

      I also loved Prisoners despite the issues. Both Jackman and Gyllanhaal were fantastic!

      Like

    • As you should be! 😛 I still can’t get over just how well made it is. The story isn’t anything unique or special but damn the execution is spot on

      Like

  3. Damn I envy you for being able to see this already. Sicario hasn’t been one I’ve been anticipating for a really long time but as soon as the first trailer dropped a few months back I was instantly all over it. Made by the guy who gave us Prisoners? Incendies? (Which I actually need to see too). (I want to forget that he made Enemy b/c that thing was stupid.) I’m all in for Sicario!

    Awesome rating system by the way, I highly approve. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehe thanks, I like my new rating system too 😀

      You didn’t like Enemy eh? I enjoyed it… its one of those films you really need to see a second time i think to properly take it all in. But this makes Prisoners look like a walk in the park, seriously. It is the SHIT!

      Like

  4. Nice one, mate! I’ve been impressed with Villenueve’s output these days. This sounds great and you can’t go wrong with that cast either. I’m now hoping his good form continues with Blade Runner 2.

    Liked by 2 people

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