Today: May 24, 2024
SICARIO Day 01

Sicario

The war on drugs has long been a favourite of film. But if Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic illustrated it with a tapestry of characters and story Sicario gets into the nitty gritty. Because in the world of Sicario the emphasis is on the war rather than the drugs. And in this war there are pieces, like a game of chess, pawns, knights and kings all being carefully maneuvered to try and outsmart the opposition.

When a raid she is instrumental in goes horribly wrong by the books FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) finds herself recruited to a government task force, headed by secretive Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to help take down the Mexican drug cartel responsible. But with the task force showing increasing disregard for the law Macer demands answers and instead is witness to the tactics of the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) who plays by a very different, very violent set of rules.

Sicario takes no time in immersing you deep into the dark and twisted world of the lengths the authorities will go to end the influx of narcotics into the US of A. It’s a film that successfully unsettles you, keeps you guessing as to exactly what piece on the chess board Kate, Matt and in particular Alejandro are. By the time the moves are all in place you’ll be well and truly check-mated with delightful effects.

Director Denis Villeneuve has fast established himself as a modern day prince of oppressive, sinister thrillers. Between the likes of Prisoners and Enemy he is a filmmaker that wants to toy with his audience while telling gripping stories chock-full of rich and ambiguous characters. Sicario is no exception. It is the sort of film that Michael Mann made his name conjuring, nail-bitting character driven thrills from start to finish.

He’s wonderfully aided by the cinematography of the legendary Roger Deakins. Here he bathes everything in a vivid, yet saturated pallet. Shadows, silhouettes, like the men in the film, cloud everything. Even a sunset in Deakins’ hands feels daunting and foreboding as dark figures packing firearms cross the beautiful vista. It’s a visual motif that perfectly captures the ideals of the film.

The performances are all wonderfully understated. Brolin is relishing his role as the grinning CIA spook quietly pulling the strings. His character delights himself and us, in keeping everyone in the dark. Daniel Kaluuya delivers a still, burning anger to his performance. It’s an understated role that marks him out as a genuinely intriguing supporting actor.

But the lynchpin of the film is the double-header of Del Toro and Blunt. Blunt brings a resolve to Kate, a sense of determination mixed with moral justice that will see her fall flat on her face in this morally grey world. Her black and white viewpoint are what make you root for her but also what you suspect will be her undoing. Del Toro meanwhile is stunning as Alejandro. He’s effortlessly cool, a ghost of a character calm under fire and lethal when he has to be. The quieter he gets the more dangerous he becomes and all along you sense a protective instinct, despite his often cold exterior, to his newest partner in the saddle. The often dialogue free, ever evolving relationship between Blunt and Del Toro is palpable and a particular highlight.

A scintillating, pulsating with suppressed anger film that hooks you from start to finish, Sicario will get you high in all the right ways.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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