********* 8 out of 10 *********
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Actors: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro
Mexican drug lords, and their battle with US agencies, there is nothing new about that. An age-old problem in the real world, and a hotbed for movie ideas in Hollywood. So whenever I read about an upcoming movie that has anything to do with drug trafficking, I wonder, how can it be different? Director Denis Villeneuve would have thought of the same thing before he began with Sicario. And he does deliver something different. Even though the core story remains similar to many movies of this genre that we have seen already, Sicario turns into a fascinating watch by the manner in which the layers of its story unravel, the pace with which the movie quickens, the haunting style of direction that Villeneuve uses to build suspense, and of course, the absolutely fantastic group of actors that have come together. Sicario is easily one of the best crime thrillers you will get to see in recent times!
Sicario gets the ball rolling right from the first shot when a FBI team led by Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) tackles a small gang in Arizona during a kidnapping raid. The raid uncovers dozens of corpses which has something to do with drug cartels in Mexico. Macer gets an opportunity to work with Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), a Department of Defense adviser, who is leading a team of elite agents searching for the men responsible for what happened in Arizona. During the operation, Macer meets the tight-lipped Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) who makes her uneasy. As Macer gets dragged deeper into the operation, she realises how far things are going off the book as the objective of the operation itself gets murkier and murkier.
Canadian director Denis Villeneuve isn’t afraid of picking up gritty stories to narrate on the big screen. His 2013 flick Prisoners was about a desperate father searching for his missing daughter, which was followed up with another thriller, Enemy, about a man searching for his look-alike. With Sicario, Villeneuve has now raised the bar of what he can offer. He has chosen another intense story, written by Taylor Sheridan, and made it into a splendid commercial product without diluting any grittiness of the tale. The direction work is absolutely terrific – the camera shots are remarkable, be it in the jeeps or the planes that somehow make you feel part of the action; the music is used sparingly which adds to many haunting intense moments on-screen; the pace of the story never ever slackens nor does it spin away from the director’s grasp. The story in itself has so many layers to it, which makes it as much as a mystery tale as a thriller. We are left wondering about what is going on – as much as Kate Macer is – which keeps us hooked till the very last scene. Sicario is the first work by Taylor Sheridan as a writer, and judging by this, I feel Hollywood has a terrific talent to look forward to!
Sicario has a hardness to it brought forth by the likes of Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, and then there is a bit of softness that comes from Emily Blunt. I loved the fact that the leading role was given to a female, because it could so easily have been a male actor in those shoes since it was a gender-neutral role; but Villeneuve and the people behind this movie opted for Emily Blunt and for that they should be applauded. Maybe more such directors will come our way, and soon we wouldn’t have to specifically praise when an actress gets a meatier role in a movie. Blunt is of course terrific as Agent Macer. She cuts across a tough personality, an idealist of sorts, who does not always approve of the way things are handled during the operation. Much of the movie is from her point-of-view, so the dilemna which Blunt shows on the screen resonates with what the audience is feeling too. After a great act in Edge of Tomorrow followed by Sicario, Emily Blunt’s recent choices have been fantastic and I hope she keeps adding more good roles worthy of her talent.
Oh, what a joy it is to see two blokes like Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro share the screen! Both have strong rustic personalities which make them perfect for their roles in this movie as operatives who are willing to bend rules to attain their objectives. Brolin has a certain warmth about him despite whatever role he is put in – maybe it comes from that charming voice of his – and a commanding personality which is displayed with ease in Sicario. Del Toro on the other hand keeps a mysterious aura around him that allows his character to grow from the shadows into one of the key story-changers in the movie. Both actors strike a great partnership which is one of the strong highlights of the movie. Daniel Kaluuya plays Macer’s partner, watching out for her. He strikes a good vibe with Emily Blunt, and the contrasting thoughts of this partnership with that of Brolin – Del Toro creates a tension in the movie that can be felt at almost all times. Victor Garber has a limited role as Macer’s boss in the FBI, but carries it out with surety that comes quite naturally to him.
Sicario is a movie that needs to be worked on to make it click. Denis Villeneuve has clearly worked on every detail in the movie with a fine-tooth comb. The way the characters are defined in the movie, the way they interact with each other, the way one action leads to the next, everything is well thought of before being executed. It’s the kind of hard-work that deserves appreciation! Good job, Villeneuve… I will be eagerly looking forward to your next movie.