By: Muneeb Arshid
Sicario is the third Denis Villeneuve feature film after the highly successful Prisoners and Enemy from 2013 and 2014, respectively. The movie stars Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow), Josh Brolin (Everest and No Country for Old Men), and Benicio Del Toro (Escobar: Paradise Lost and Traffic) in a drug-fuelled action thriller (I use this term loosely) set along the US- Mexico Border.
The movie contains a cliché storyline starring characters that have been seen before in a multitude of films. The way that the characters are played however, is what makes this movie stand out. It should be noted that the posters may show that the movie might be about Emily Blunt’s character, Kate, but the crucial performance is delivered by Del Toro with his portrayal of Alejandro. The calibre of his performance hasn’t been seen from the former Oscar winner in quite some time. I can state without any hesitation that a Best Actor nomination should be headed Del Toro’s way. An honorable mention must be given to Josh Brolin, who portrayed the team leader Matt and added that extra grit to what would otherwise have been exceptionally bland role. His character provided additional comic relief to a film that was, for the most part, disturbingly serious.
Now, the movie itself which was sublime in nearly every aspect. The first thing to note is the cinematography and the sheer beauty that it exudes. The movie is beautifully shot, which is not a surprise with Director of Photography Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men and Skyfall) at the helm. He captures some panning birds-eye-view shots of Ciudad Juarez and complements them with street side shots that show the bleak reality that the people in Juarez are essentially unable to escape from.
The defining message from the film centers upon the bleakness of the War on Drugs in the Southern US; with the visceral nature of Juarez’s portrayal in the film, Villenueve’s message feels as if it is being delivered in a documentary format of sorts and that adds to the immersion factor. The film showcases how agencies are compelled to “work together” in order to have a shot at a cartel leader, as working individually is not a viable option. Even getting rid of a single cartel leader means that another leader has already popped up (akin to the whole “Hydra” theme from the Agents of Shield TV show); if the system is not brought down entirely, cartel leaders will forever be replaced and the whole situation ends up being a never-ending cyrcle of massacre.
It’s not the story that contributes to the high mark that we are awarding the film, but rather the complex characters in the movie whom you connect to immediately that elevate the film. These detailed characters connect easily with audiences, who easily are able to latch onto Alejandro’s story after his background (mostly ambiguous in what was a wise decision) is revealed. Sicario may not receive a Best Picture nomination but it might have at least 1 nomination for Best Actor, and that speaks to the level of excellence on display. We highly recommend the film.
Sicario gets an A grade.