FILM REVIEW: Sicario (2015)

Sicario film

Sicario takes us on a journey back and forth across the US/Mexican border and into the dark underworld of drug cartels. We follow Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) an idealistic FBI agent as she becomes involved in a mysterious task force headed by the enigmatic Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) and Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). Soon Kate finds herself embroiled in something much more complex than she ever expected where there is a fine line between right and wrong.

Sicario is a great example of how you don’t need big action set pieces to keep people interested. It utilises suspense and atmospheric silence to replace the type of linear action storytelling we would normally expect. There isn’t a lot of talking in this movie, it’s more about reading between the silences rather than what is actually said. Although quite different thematically, it reminded me a lot of Drive in that it is quite stark on the script front and chooses to focus on cinematography and building towards intense suspense filled sequences. It makes you realise movies don’t need explosions and crazy stunts, keeping it real and allowing for a much more immersive experience.

Emily Blunt. I’ve always been a fan of hers, but here she gets to show a side of herself rarely glimpsed before now. She is a lone female warrior in a male dominated world, but she is by no means emotionless, indestructible or prickly towards her male colleagues. She is professional, strong but at times also immensely vulnerable. She is, in my opinion, a perfectly balanced female character. She does not succumb to the stereotypical strong female character tropes and with no make up or much of a script to hide behind, this film exposes just what a talented actor she is.

The movie also boasts a perfect supporting cast with Benicio Del Toro on familiar turf with his brooding, morally ambiguous Alejandro and Brolin seems to be thoroughly enjoying playing the part of mysterious alternative characters. You’re never sure whether to take him seriously with his flip-flop wearing antics but he, like all the characters in Sicario, has many secrets, only some of which are revealed by the closing credits.

The cinematography is beautiful. Our eyes are treated to wonderful aerial helicopter shots of the stark Mexican deserts and corrupt, cramped towns. Everything in Mexico is stark and gritty much like the film itself. We are also treated to some excellently claustrophobic night vision sequences as the task force weaves through underground tunnels. Even things as simple as watching Emily Blunt smoking a cigarette on the balcony shot from behind a lacy curtain are simply beautiful to watch.

But where there is beauty, there is also ugliness. One of the most disturbing scenes visually takes place at the very beginning of the film when the FBI team storm a residence only to make a horrific discovery. There are numerous bodies hidden in the walls and as the camera zooms in on their bloodied faces inside plastic bags, you can’t help but feel your heart pound and feel a little queasy roll in your stomach (even for someone like me with an iron stomach and love of all things macabre). So it’s no surprise that the scene following this is the FBI agents outside throwing up.

Ok, so what’s wrong with it? Not much. If you like meaty scripts then this probably isn’t for you. If you’re into films with a concise ending and linear story arc, this also isn’t for you. This a story of corruption and individual character development so don’t expect everything to get all tied up neatly with a pretty bow. That isn’t what Sicario is about – it’s messy and real and that’s where its strength lies.

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