The first thing you hear in Sicario, before you’ve even see a single frame of the movie, is a slow thumping noise that grows louder and faster. It’s a recurring noise throughout the film, which basically sets the pace for your heartbeat during this genuinely tense and thrilling piece of filmmaking.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve of Prisoners fame – my favourite film of 2013 – Sicario is very much a companion piece in that it’s once again dealing with the ambiguity of humans, albeit on a much broader canvas.
Emily Blunt plays Kate Macer, an FBI agent who specialises in kidnap cases. When the raid of a home in Arizona ends up in the discovery of dozens of dead bodies, it triggers an escalation in the war against drugs on the U.S and Mexican border.
Macer is approached to aid the government operation in trying to find the person responsible for the crimes, and joins forces with the shady Matt Graver and his partner Alejandro Gillick.
In way over her head and unsure as to who she can trust, Macer has to question her morality as she’s led deeper into a dark world of spooks and hitmen.
A tightly wound thriller, masterfully brought to the screen by Villeneuve; Sicario works on multiple levels. Villeneuve himself is just one of the reasons the film works as well as it does, as he continues to prove one of the most exciting film-makers working today.
A master-juggler of tension, mystery and misdirection, perhaps the most exciting thing about Sicario is where it sits in the director’s body of work, and the promise it shows for the up and coming Blade Runner sequel.
The film itself is filled with well constructed sequences that will give you heart palpitations and leave you on the edge of your seat. The final thirty-minutes or so, which sees a covert team of armed agents walk into the desert for a gun battle, is a particular highlight. Cleverly told through the use of night vision, this brilliant set-piece is visceral; a piece of cinema that is wonderful to look at, as much as it is physically strenuous to watch.
Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are a triple threat in the lead roles. Each is fascinating to watch, although there’s no denying that the picture belongs to Del Toro, who is the best he’s been in years here.
However, the real star of the film is Roger Deakins’ cinematography, which demands to be seen on the big screen. A combination of dust and mood, each frame of Sicario is a potentially pauseable moment. In the films quieter moments, you can’t help but think it’s Villeneuve’s way of drawing attention to just how weirdly stunning the picture is – despite being about murder and drugs.
So, Sicario certainly has the good looks due to its cinematography; definitely has the brains due to Villeneuve’s direction; and the heart comes from the central performances of its leads.
It ticks all the boxes and is as much as a perfectly constructed thriller you could possible ask for. That said, it didn’t quite have me as gripped as Prisoners did – although I’m sure I’ll be the minority on that one – and as time passes on, I can’t say I’d be in a rush to see it again.
That’s not a detriment to the film and it does what it’s supposed to do, very well. But, the best thing about Sicario, is the talented people who brought it to life, as opposed to the film itself.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com