I did some research before writing this review and was surprised at how little films focussed on the Mexican Drug War. It’s a conflict rarely heard about through the news, with only sporadic accounts of what is happening through documentaries such as 2015’s Cartel Land. So when reading into Sicario‘s premise, I was excited to see it due to the tough subject matter it was taking on. Let’s have a look, shall we?
Sicario (Spanish for ‘hitman’) stars Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro and is directed by Denis Villeneuve. The film follows FBI agent Kate Macer (Blunt) as she is drafted into a covert anti-drug squad, led by the mysterious duo of Matt Graver (Brolin) and Alejandro Gillick (Del Toro).
The famed cinematographer Roger Deakins returns to a Denis Villeneuve film after his work on 2013’s Prisoners, and works his magic yet again in Sicario. His cinematography in some of the more on edge scenes almost comes down to a maths equation, with a rhythmic montage of shots just to build up tension. The gunfights that unfold on highways, in a drug mule tunnel and then finally in a drug kingpins manor (three of my favourite scenes in the film) are marvellous and shows that he is one of the best cinematographers today.
The cast are spectacular. Emily Blunt play FBI agent Kate Macer as an empowered woman during the first half of the film, but soon she gets worn down by the constant threats and violence that is erupting around her and nearly breaks down in a couple of scenes. Josh Brolin, hot off his role in Everest plays the leader of the anti-drug squad that Macer is drafted to, his character somehow charming but cunning and dastardly at the same time. He always looks like he has something to hide but his constant interaction with Blunt is brilliant to watch. The standout of the film however has to be Benicio Del Toro as the mysterious Alejandro. Del Toro is an actor that can say so much through one small facial expression, and here it works perfectly as we can gauge Alejandro’s mood from the smallest twitch of Del Toro’s mouth.
Famed composer Johann Johannsson provides the score for the film and it is atmospheric to say the least. Johannsson uses constant reverberation and increasing volume in the score, which when twinned with Deakins’ cinematography is a moody, dark and exceptional combination.
When I came out of the cinema after watching Sicario I didn’t think it deserved all the praise that other reviewers were giving it. But after sitting on it, I think I’ve figured out why I wasn’t ecstatic when I came out of the theatre. The story is incredibly dark and violent, and even as someone who enjoys ultra violent films like The Raid 2, I had some trouble with Sicario. While most of the violence on screen is bloody, it’s the violence that happens off-screen or that is mentioned that is the most stomach churning. The very first scene in the film is Macer and her team finding over forty dead bodies stacked neatly next to each other hidden in the walls of a drug house. Macer and her team run outside to throw up and you almost want to do the same.
Sicario twist and turns, bringing up more and more depraved imagery on screen, and Villeneuve just let’s it stay there for a while, almost to a point where you have to look away. Once act three rolls around and you start to learn the meaning behind certain phrases and words that keep cropping up, or why Macer is so important to the anti-drug squad and what Del Toro’s Alejandro is really doing with them, the film evokes it’s tagline, “The deeper you go, the darker it gets.”
Sicario is a film that pulls you by your stomach through a vicious and sickening world, but once you’re on the other side it’s one of the most exhilarating experiences you’ll ever have in a movie theatre. If you can stay with it, definitely check this one out.
Score: 8/10 Almost sickening, but in the end incredible.