Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Daniel Kaluuya, Jon Bernthal
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Running Time: 121 mins
Release date: 9th October 2015
Any film that comes lauded with praise from critics and a film poster covered with 5 star comments is kind of heading for a fall. Thankfully, Sicario, a film based around the drug cartels of Mexico and a woman caught in a world she doesn’t understand, is everything that the mass of praise it has lavished upon it. In fact, it is quite possibly the best thriller of the year, maybe the decade.
Kate Macer is an idealistic FBI agent working in the field of kidnappings, especially around a drug cartel. When she is caught up in a house of horror that leads to the death of fellow officers, Kate wants to get the man responsible. so she is enlisted by a mysterious section of the FBI, led by Matt Graver and the equally enigmatic Alejandro. Heading into the heart of Mexico, Kate soon discovers that she is world where no one tells her anything, fighting a man no one knows his whereabouts and risking her life.
Denis Villeneuve, who has given us Prisoners and the underrated Enemy, has delivered a powerhouse of a thriller. From the start, he lays out his stall with a sequence that shock, surprises and just grips without once ever telegraphing what is going to happen. From that moment on, we are in Kate’s world. She is the backbone of the whole film. We see everything from her point of view, along with her paranoia, frustrations and confusions.
This is one of the many strengths of the film. We are told virtually nothing. We, along with Kate, are given about as much information as she is, so instead of being fed facts about characters and situations, we are living the events through her. Some may find this frustrating, yet there is still plenty to admire, even if you spend the entire film in a wealth of confusion.
Then there are the set pieces. Some of the finest, most nail-biting cinematic moments in a very long time. You genuinely feel your heart beat, especially during an incredible tense moment set in a traffic jam on a bridge. Hemmed in by cars, a convoy of FBI agents and covert soldiers are on the look-out for men willing to sacrifice themselves in order to kill the prisoner they are transporting, while Kate sits in the back of her vehicle wondering what she has gotten into. It is going to be one of those scenes that is talked about for years to come. A truly, gripping and exhilarating moments.
On top of that is the superb cinematography from the great Roger Deakins, who makes the whole film look crisp and sharp while adding blurred lines throughout. Moments that we need to focus on are added by his legendary lens, while the real strength of his work is shown during a sequence where the covert soldiers are heading over a hill in an orange hue, leading to an almost ghostly sequence where night-vision is used. Very reminiscent to that used by Kathryn Bigalow in Zero Dark Thirty, it helps lead us into another suspense-filled set piece.
Add to the impressiveness of the film already, you have a cast that are literally on fire. Josh Brolin is charismatic as Graver, a man who manages to be both the most trust-worthy fellow around while never turning your back on him in fear for your life. It’s a perfectly pitched performance that works wonders opposite Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro, a man of very few words who holds a past that is leading him to be who he is now.
Yet while the two males have the more showy roles, it is Emily Blunt who holds the film together as Kate, in one of her finest performances of her career. She carries us through every emotion possible while still being tough and determined yet you want her to walk away for fear of her life. It is a masterclass in acting and one that should put her up there with the best of the best.
As you can gather, I really liked Sicario. This is an honest mature thriller that doesn’t treat its audience as fools. It would have been so easy to lead us through the usual A to Z journey of the Mexican drug cartel, a subject matter that has been used so often in cinema recently. Instead it gives us something thoughtful, unbearably tense and incredibly gripping. This is Villeneuve’s best film to date and as the posters rightly say, this is the thriller of the year and must not be missed.