Hook. Never let go. That was how watching Sicario felt like, like a drug cartel gunning for your head. Sicario was one of my most hotly anticipated movies of the year, given the hype it generated and the obscurity of other highly acclaimed films like Carol, Brooklyn, Spotlight etc. Of course Innaritu’s icy revenge epic The Revenant and Netflix’s Beasts of no nation are the high flying thriller hopefuls for the big awards, but Sicario shows that it can hold its own. My mistake. That is an understatement. It will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish;And you will love it. The acting was phenomenal, with Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin giving tough gritty testosterone driven performances. But Emily Blunt’s the real star here. She’s tough yet vulnerable,perceptive and yet naive; She rises above the machismo of her male counterparts with exceptional range. Sicario knocks the ball out of the park this time,turning the rather base and unspired action movie genre into something intriguing. The savagery is all there. But Villeneuve’s Sicario is perhaps most brutal and gripping not in the action itself, but in the raging tempest of the mind.
Hitting top marks for action and character development is a paradox. But Villeneuve and his talented cast find a way. Kate immediately strikes a connection with us not only because she’s the only girl in the frontline, but also because she immediately displays grit and weakness early in the film. As an FBI special weapons and tactics agent, she’s abruptly thrown into the underworld. This underworld soon rears its ugly head when she’s roped in by the CIA in the form of Special Activities Division head Matt Graver(Josh Brolin) to track down one of Mexico’s most powerful drug lords responsible for countless deaths and kidnappings. A mysterious character, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro) boards the same plane as Kate and Matt that flys to El Paso,Texas for their investigation. Except they’re not actually going there; It’s bound for Juarez, Mexico.
Reggie Wayne(Daniel Kaluuya), Kate’s assistant, is a refreshing figure among serious faces. Always popping around to give Kate emotional support, his caustic attacks on Matt and Alejandro’s underhand methods provide some laughter that counters the gloomy subject matter albeit only for awhile. The bond between these two however is lasting and humanizes Kate even more, making her narrative something that I grew to appreciate on a deeper level. Villenueve’s efforts to make Kate the centre of our attraction has paid off. Because her character is the only one which exemplifies the struggle, the dilemma of her own identity, and the innocence and naivete that both harms and redeems her.
Being a big fan of the director’s work, I was glad to see his trademark zoom out shot of his environment like in Enemy. Denis Villeneuve’s eye for vastness underscores Juarez’s endless labyrinth of shady societies and deathly ruin. These wide spanning shots tone the action down without stripping the tension. In the end, the narrative tautness of the war on drugs allows more time spent to develop highly complex characters. What’s most refreshing,above all, is that Sicario forcefully weeds out any notion of heroism with well-crafted scenes (credit to the marvellous acting as well), making the psychological effects on characters (especially Kate) it’s main feature. Exceptionally tonal and stylishly ferocious, Sicario combines the enigma of it’s characters and tensional verve to serve up one dark and invigorating picture, shedding light on the ambiguities in a violent tenebrous land.
Check out these card style posters from Lionsgate! Aren’t they cool!