Thursday, October 1, 2015

[Review] Sicario

Directer Denis Villeneuve has quite the resume going with brutal and hard-hitting films like Incendies, Prisoners, and Enemy (to a lesser extent). He brings that same heaviness, murky morality, and harsh imagery to his latest effort, Sicario.

Chandler, Arizona. FBI Agent Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) leads a SWAT team into a house that is connected to the Sinaloa drug cartel, and they find some nasty surprises (the media later names it the "House of Horrors"). Following that, Kate is recruited by a Special Forces unit that includes Josh Brolin and a mysterious 'one word answer' giving hitman played by a scary Benicio Del Toro. Their goal is to journey into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in order to take the Cartel down from the top--cutting the snake's head off, so-to-speak. Speaking of snakes, the film boasts a frequent amount of overhead shots (in the same way #TrueDetectiveSeason2 captured LA), and the camera characterizes the city as a giant snake pit with it's windy roads, rocky deserts, and underground tunnel entrances.

Emily Blunt's character is tossed into some highly dangerous zones without having much background information about the specific situations or instruction about what exactly the mission entails, so in a way, it feels like we're on the unpredictable ride with her. There's a constant uneasiness to the film. Even when the crew isn't amid action, there's an ever-present anticipation knowing that some heart-racing shit is about to go down. There's a particularly intense and visually stimulating night-vision scene where the squad invades an occupied drug transportation tunnel. The sequence is actually reminiscent of some of the stuff from Kathryn Bigelow's contemporary war films The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.

As if there weren't already enough combat, conflict arises within the group and certain reveals are made (I won't delve much further into that). And I can't go without mentioning the solid performances here. Emily Blunt continues to prover her versatility, and Josh Brolin engages in a patented Josh Brolin role. But the one that will strike you the most is Benicio Del Toro. He's a quiet, haunted assassin with a major grudge and his stone facial expressions say everything.

Like Prisoners, Sicario packs enough substance to warrant a second viewing, of course--only if you're willing to put yourself through it all again.

* 8.5/10 *

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