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Review: ‘Sicario’ (2015)

Written by: J. Johnson

When a movie is a thriller it’s suppose to bring you on a ride from start to finish. Taking your emotions on a rollercoaster ride of adventure only to immerse you into the experience and story of the movie. Sicario has that element accompanied by the character development and story plots that drive the story home from each scene. Denis Villeneuve’s stomach-turningly gruesome narco thriller Sicario, has the adrenaline fueled action movie that only give the sense that he may have found his niche with this film especially with the comic-turned-multi-talented actress Emily Blunt. Blunt shined greatly in her badass role aside co-star Tom Cruise in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’; guess dodging robotic combatants and “killing” Cruise over and over again paid off for a more edgier role as Kate Mercer.

But that is barely scratching the surface of the thriller that is Sicario. Macer, who is tapped by an elite team of secretive CIA advisors, is the audience stand in — as much in the dark as those watching her. While it begins in Chandler, Arizona, with a big bang that dives head-on into the action, Sicario only keeps up, even escalates, that pace and tension when moving geographically between USA and Mexico.

Matt Graver (Brolin) and his partner Alejandro (a fabulous del Toro) are tasked with finding the men responsible for the drug trafficking across the border, one of them being the cartel boss, Manuel Diaz. Progressively, as Macer gets in deeper, realisation dawns — both on her and the audience — that the rule book has been thrown out; the guys on both sides are abiding by a jungle law.

Emily Blunt as Kate Mercer – ‘Sicario’ (2015) | Photo credit: Lionsgate

Del Toro’s character although courteous and even fatherly towards Kate, solicitous for her well-being, quietly traumatised by some event in his own past. When Kate asks Alejandro what’s going on, he coolly replies: “You’re asking me how a watch works. For now, let’s just keep an eye on the time.” COLD!!!! For my money I would say easily Benicio Del Toro’s character is by far the best aside from Emily Blunt’s character.

When Blunt first comes on in all the tough-guy hard-body gear, it is a bit implausible. But she brazens out any possible absurdity with great acting focus and front. She delivers a real star turn, mixing confidence, bewilderment and vulnerability: all the more difficult being up against Brolin and Del Toro, who themselves give huge performances with bells and whistles hooting and clanging.

Expansive shots and minimal background score stand in stark contrast and keep one on at the edge of the seat with sweaty palms. Villeneuve (Prisoners) understands his craft well enough to know when to dial it up to eleven to reel the viewer in, and when to scale it back and let the story take you where it may. No one is squeamish about shedding blood too.

Blunt’s character, though, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, elaborate attempts are made to defeminise her (it’s even pointed out) to establish that she fits into the big bad man’s world; on the other, she still ends up as the whimpering girl who needs rescuing and hand-holding. Overall, Sicario is a compelling movie that will have you on the edge of your seat. A real step forward for Villeneuve: it is less discursive, less reflective than movies such as Prisoners (2013) and Incendies (2010), although I always thought the cerebral content of these pictures was a little supercilious. This is a real white-knuckle thriller, with screeching feedback notes of fear and paranoia, which plays out in a very satisfying atmosphere of pure nihilist ruthlessness.

Rating: 2246c-4stars1

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