<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Written by Taylor Sheridan. Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan, Maximiliano Hernández, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal
Running Time: 2 hours
Sicario (meaning hit man) is a brilliantly crafted and chilling piece of cinema about the war against drugs on the US-Mexico border.
I’m in awe of this film. Sicario merges beautiful cinematography (Roger Deakins) with amazing writing (Taylor Sheridan) and a gritty, almost mournful soundtrack (Jóhann Jóhannsson). Visually so many frames are masterpieces. And the subtle electronic moans and groans of the music coupled with some deft sound editing complete the experience. Of course let’s not forget director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) who has taken a commonplace plot about drug lords and law enforcement and packaged it in a way you’ve never seen before.
Sicario starts off with a bust of drug den by FBI agents Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and her partner Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) with a SWAT team. This is just one of the many tension-filled scenes – that don’t require CGI and lots of things blowing up – that keep you riveted.
But the agents are only scratching the surface of a business that never shuts down even with the capture of the middlemen. The ‘head’ has to roll and Kate Macer is asked to volunteer for a special unit mission headed by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). Graver questions Macer as to her marital status and whether she is a mother. This underlying thread of sexism runs throughout the film where Blunt’s character, is seen as weaker than the men. She needs to smile more, wear prettier clothes and be kept in the dark for more reasons than just being a woman, of course.
To heighten the intrigue, the filmmakers keep their ultimate goal close to their chest. They also introduce Benecio Del Toro’s character Alejandro, a mysterious and dark individual with an interest in what’s going on. Is he good or bad? Or is it a shade of grey? There are plenty of those in this film that doesn’t really have a hero (is that because the female lead is incapable of being a hero or is that the reality of the law enforcement game, where the men are always ahead?).
There’s so much that even the smallest scene expresses in Sicario. And each set up is gorgeously presented with aerial shots that zoom in and then fly out with such creative precision that you are left searching these dotted landscapes looking for a cavalcade of black cars or an airplane on its mission.
And that background score or rather background sound effects is chilling. Sound is so underestimated in good storytelling but in Sicario every thump of a car over a speed breaker reverberates in your ears telling you more about the urgency of the mission. Simply amazing.
Sicario has a lot of depth and does it in a slick and thoughtful manner so there’s not too much exposition, just subtle but extremely effective performances and framing of scenes.
Real, chilling and superbly filmed, Sicario is one of the years best.