Film Review: Sicario (★★★½)

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sicario_ver2Feverishly satisfying with pulse-pounding energy that’s sure to give your heart its full day’s work, Denis Villenueve‘s masterful “Sicario” with Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin is an edge of your seat thriller that exemplifies the finest parts of the action genre.  Filled with mystery, suspense, and outstanding performances, Villenueve’s direction, along a tight script by Taylor Sheridan, brings a much needed sense of technique and art that’s been sorely missing from the 2015 movie year.

Sicario” tells the story of an idealistic FBI agent names Kate (Blunt), who is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.  With the “guidance” of a mysterious agent Alejandro (Del Toro) and her superior Matt (Brolin), and influx of intrigue and morals will shake Kate to her very core.

First and foremost, “Sicario” breathes new life into contemporary cinematography, as produced by no less than the great Roger Deakins.  A vessel for God’s eye on the world, Deakins ignites the fire of his vision, capturing some of the finest shots seen this decade.  His use of shadows, CGI, and choices in which to convey and portray emotions is downright genius.  Becoming essentially another character in the story, Deakins gives a master’s class on cinematography for future craftsmen and women to behold.  It’s a work that will surely land him his thirteenth Oscar nomination.

Above that, we are treated to fantastic and awards worthy performances.  Emily Blunt, as seen in nearly everything she touches, shows herself as one of the most interesting and endearing actresses working today.  Her courage and vulnerability for Kate is personified by Blunt’s ability to connect with the character’s soul.  She lays into Kate calmly, echoing great performances like Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty” but with more reserve.

sicario-cannes-film-festivalBenicio Del Toro is downright magnificent.  As Alejandro, he delivers his best performance since “21 Grams.”  A dedicated sensation that calls back to all types of performances such as Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” or Gene Hackman in “The French Connection.”  You won’t be able to take your eyes off him.  Josh Brolin utilizes every ounce of his charm that has made him one of the most sought after actor’s in the business.  A memorable, though understated and undervalued character that you do want more clarity about.  Other cast members like Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Donovan, Victor Garber, and especially Daniel Kaluuya are given their fair share of opportunity, which all take well.

As a technical endeavor, “Sicario” also succeeds in its vibrantly living sound design, and illustrious score by Academy Award nominee Jóhann Jóhannsson. The two are married in a blistering union of tension and heart palpitations.  Editor Joe Walker is a shining star behind the scenes as well, thanks to his precision and patience in bringing a scene right to the edge, and knowing when and where to take it next.  It’s his most innovative work yet, even surpassing his nominated work on “12 Years a Slave.”

Goes without saying that “Sicario” is Denis Villenueve’s best work to date.  Coming from someone that thoroughly enjoyed “Prisoners” and tolerated “Enemy,” this is his most accessible and compelling piece.  If anything, he’s just so damn exciting to watch these days, as he locates strange vehicles for actor’s and craftsmen to come together.  He takes on a genre that may feel familiar, like the drug cartel, but makes it feel new and smart.

Sicario” is hands down one of the year’s best films.

The film opens in theaters on September 18, 2015 and is distributed by Lionsgate.

 

  • L227

    Does it have a shot at best picture and director?

    • I sincerely hope so but my gut says that its mostly a tech player and possibly Benicio del Toro.

  • L227

    I really want to see this!

  • Joey Magidson

    I can vouch for this being excellent as well, though probably not a likely contender in the big categories. Super well done, but tonally not to the Academy’s taste.

  • Greg

    So Emily Blunt won’t be nominated for Best Actress? 🙁

  • Evandro Lannuci Rêgo Magalhães

    Clayton, do you think the movie has a shot at the tech categories, like sound mixing and sound editing?

  • Edward de Andrade

    Nice piece. I wouldn’t say thought that this is Benicio’s best performance since 21 grams. We shouldn’t forget his one man show performance in the incredible CHE biopic which gave him best actor in Cannes albeit seven years ago.