Time: 121 Minutes
Emily Blunt as Kate Macer
Benicio del Toro as Alejandro Gillick
Josh Brolin as Matt Graver
Victor Garber as Dave Jennings
Jon Bernthal as Ted
Daniel Kaluuya as Reggie Wayne
Director: Denis Villeneuve
After rising through the ranks of her male-dominated profession, idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) receives a top assignment. Recruited by mysterious government official Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), Kate joins a task force for the escalating war against drugs. Led by the intense and shadowy Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), the team travels back-and-forth across the U.S.-Mexican border, using one cartel boss (Bernardo Saracino) to flush out a bigger one (Julio Cesar Cedillo).
Denis Villeuneve already started becoming one of my favourite directors ever since I saw Prisoners for the first time, and when I saw Sicario for the first time, he solidified himself as one of the best directors working today. Once again, he showcased his incredible talents behind the camera. Sicario is a dark and gripping thriller, made even better by the excellent direction and acting. Watching it again only made me appreciate this film even more.
This is Taylor Sheridan’s first script and for a writing debut, he did a great job here. He would go on to write for great films like Hell or High Water, Wind River and soon the hopefully good Sicario sequel. This movie did very well in establishing a very dark tone and feels really based in reality. It feels appropriately unpleasant and uneasy throughout, really making Juarez feel like a threatening and dangerous place that our characters are inside and in danger. From beginning to end, you never feel that these characters are completely safe. Understand that while this movie does have some thrilling sequences and is about the cartel, it’s not an action filled movie. It takes its time with its pacing and plot. And with that I can see some people feeling that the scenes are a little too long, but I didn’t experience any of these problems, at least on my second viewing. The movie does end up shifting in perspective from Emily Blunt to Benicio del Toro in the last act. It wasn’t necessarily a bad decision, it’s just that it was a little jarring all of a sudden a change in protagonists after we got used to Emily Blunt following for about an hour and a half. This movie is 2 hours long, having seen it twice I would’ve liked it to be slightly longer, but it’s not like a major problem or anything. Otherwise it’s a rather suiting runtime.
The acting was all around great. Emily Blunt is great in here as the lead, this is probably her best performance to date (at least from what I’ve seen from her). She was really the audience surrogate (maybe a little too much), but she still works well enough as a character. You can see her character change over time as she witnesses more things over the course of the movies. She’s very much wanting to do things by the book and that is conflicted by certain aspects. While the character potentially could’ve been improved, Emily Blunt does elevate the character with her performance. Josh Brolin was really good here, exerting a lot of charm while hiding a lot of his true intentions, very memorable performance. However we don’t really get to find out too much about him as a character. A standout however was Benicio del Toro, he plays an intriguing character due to his backstory being shrouded in secrecy until it’s revealed later on. Del Toro also gives quite an effective performance as his character of Alejandro. Daniel Kaluuya was also really good in his role, getting to stand out amongst the rest of the cast. Other actors like Victor Garber and Jon Bernthal added to the movie as well.
Denis Villeneuve’s direction is once again fantastic, he handled the whole film very well. Elevating the film even more is the cinematography by Roger Deakins, which unsurprisingly is phenomenal once again. He portrays Juarez as being a very dangerous place and displays it well. The action sequences are also fantastically shot and feel grounded in reality. There are lots of tense scenes that are effective, Villeneuve places you right in the middle of these situations. One of the examples of said scenes was a border crossing scene in the first half of the movie. The soundtrack from Johann Johannsson was also excellent, ominous and haunting. The whole movie really does a great job at making you feel uncomfortable and unsettled.
Sicario was another great film by Denis Villeneuve, delivering one of the best films of 2015. Sicario upon its release only solidified Villeneuve as a director to really pay attention to. I’m not sure how the sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, will end up being but with Taylor Sheridan, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin returning, I’m confident that it’ll be something good.