Monday, October 12, 2015

Sicario - Movie Review

Sicario is a crime thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve who's previous work includes films like Prisoners and Incendies. The movie stars Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Trujillo, and Maximiliano Hernández.

The Story:
Kate Macer (Blunt) is an FBI agent who's specialty is rooting out and taking down drug dealers in the underworlds of Arizona. After her efforts begin causing some real damage to the Mexican cartel's business model, she is recruited by a special task force who is looking to make some noise and hopefully root out those ultimately responsible for controlling the flow of drugs into the states. When mission leader Matt Graver (Brolin) and a special operative named Alejandro (Del Toro) begin using some questionable tactics, Macer realizes this mission may be a lot more dangerous than what she had thought she was signing up for.

The Review:
Denis Villeneuve is quickly establishing himself as a director to be reckoned with as he once again displays an ability to bring real tension and drama to the stories he tells. Even with the success of Prisoners, I would have to say that Sicario is his best work to date as this project is much bigger in scale and the stakes are raised all the way around. I absolutely loved the scene where the task force is taken across the border and into the depths of Juarez which is literally under siege by the current and ongoing drug war. Villaneuve really makes you feel like you are falling down the proverbial rabbit hole and into a world where danger, drugs, and death are around every corner and once you are there, you realize there is no going back.

After that sequence had played out, I felt it might be hard for the director to maintain this level of intensity although this is where the cast really stepped up and let their talents take over. Emily Blunt, with standout performances in movies like Looper, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and Edge of Tomorrow, has quickly become one of Hollywood's hottest leading ladies and most bankable action stars. Through her performance, we see this incredible story unfold and the vulnerability mixed with the rough edge she brings to her character's struggles are a real key to having the audience buy in emotionally. Benicio Del Toro is fantastic in this film and I would be surprised if he doesn't get some awards consideration as a supporting actor. We have seen him play so many different types of iconic characters and his take on Alejandro has to rank pretty high on the list.

Del Toro brings a smoldering calmness to the role that gives you the impression that Alejandro has seen and done many things in his life that we should probably never learn about and you are never quite sure which side he is on until he decides to reveal himself as who and what he really is. Pairing Del Toro with Josh Brolin was a great move as they play off each other really well with Brolin adding some humor and a little bit of swagger to his character which balances out Alejandro's steely eyed intensity. Brolin has some of the best lines in the film and he knows it. His interactions with Blunt are also handled really well as he has no problem confusing her with the truth while keeping her almost completely in the dark. Putting these three actors together was inspired casting and Villeneuve had to be more than happy to have them at his disposal during the filming process.

The Verdict:
Sicario is a very smart crime thriller filled with intense action and some really strong acting performances. The story is also a bold and honest commentary on what is really going on in the supposed "war on drugs", how it is affecting people here in America and, even more importantly, how it's tearing apart whole cities in Mexico and down into South America. I wouldn't say this is required movie theater viewing like a big, special effects film although the cinematography is top notch and it would be a shame to watch it at home on any type of TV rather on a big theater screen.


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