Sicario is an action-thriller by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve that takes high tension to a whole new level. From the fast-paced opening to the film’s agonisingly taut final scenes, the films drips menace and threat from every frame. This feat is achieved through careful, precise plotting, marvellously written dialogue, realistic performances and a slow burn of suspense that leads to the films moments of jarring violence.
After her team uncovers a horrific mass murder during a SWAT raid, idealistic FBI agent Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) is volunteered into a task force to track down the drug baron responsible. At the suggestion of CIA man Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) who has so much swag that he can wear flip-flops to FBI meetings, Kate agrees to travel to Mexico with a unit of Delta Ops specialists and the shadowy figure of Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro).
However, upon arriving south of the border, Kate learns how far over the line her superiors are willing to go to achieve their goals. Strong-willed, but well out of her comfort zone, Kate must question her own morals and loyalties if she is to succeed, or even survive, the increasingly dangerous mission.
The audience’s perspective is with the star turn from Blunt as a good woman in a world of wolves. Mercer is a hard driven character, whose strong moral core is consistently chipped at by the actions of her far greyer fellow agents. Blunt’s focused performance embodies the character as a whole, emotionally and physically, using expressive emotion and solid physical presence to make Agent Mercer the spine of the movie and, more importantly, a person to care for.
Accompanying Mercer’s descent into hell are frequent flyers Brolin and Del Toro, whose characters are far more concerned with results over such pithy obstacles as lives. Brolin’s Matt Graver is a shamelessly casual man of coldly executed action, whilst Del Toro’s Gillick proves to be every bit as dangerous as he is unassuming.
Fantastically shot, Sicario is one of the best looking films of last year. Whether in the bullet-riddled favellas of Juarez, the lavish interiors of Mexico’s more fortunate citizens, or a night-vision assisted raid of an underground drug tunnel, the cinematography of the legendary Roger Deakins is meticulously used to make each scene stand out with an ironic beauty. Warm colours dominate in a film about decisions so cold. These glorious visuals are punctuated with an aggressive score by Johan Johannsson that relentlessly pounds away with unnerving dread.
Sicario has missed out on the more “headline” nominations in this year’s Oscars, which is ironic, as the Academy are known to fawn upon films that reflect American history. But maybe this particular film presents a history that most like to pretend doesn’t exist, a reminder of the never-ending drug war which has raged for decades now, costing countless lives.
But regardless of recognition, or lack thereof, Sicario remains one of the best films of 2015, it looks fantastic, features brilliant performances, and demands attention from its opening scene to its absolutely nail-biting final moments.
Can you hold your breath for two hours? I’ll bet you can.
Dir: Denis Villeneuve
Scr: Taylor Sheridan
Str: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber
Prd: Basil Iwanyk, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill
DOP: Roger Deakins
Music: Johan Johannsson
Runtime: 121 mins
Sicario is now available on Blu-Ray/DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment