SICARIO (2015, USA)

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SICARIO || 2015, USA || Thriller || Directed by – Denis Villeneuve / Written by – Taylor Sheridan / Produced by – Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Edward McDonnell, Emma McGill, Stacy Perskie, Ellen H. Schwartz, Molly Smith, John H. Starke / Music – Jóhann Jóhannsson / Cinematography – Roger Deakins / Edited by – Joe Walker / Production design – Patrice Vermette / Starring – Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Jon Bernthal, Victor Garber, Daniel Kaluuya / Running time: 121 mins.

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“Sicario” by Denis Villeneuve (2015, USA)

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force as an aid in bringing down a Mexican drug cartel.

Whereas films such as Traffic, widen the geographical scope of the war on drugs subject matter, Sicario is more focused on a specific area along the US and Mexico border. Furthermore, it is less keen on narrative exposition, opting instead for a more cerebral and minimalistic approach that really places us in the midst of the action in less conventional ways. For instance, a traffic jam sequence, has us experiencing in the unsettling mixture of silence, tension and boredom, the proverbial calm before the storm, which anticipates a quick, disorienting and violent eruption that will nevertheless not even make tomorrow’s papers, according to one of the characters.

Emily Blunt, in the role of the principled FBI agent, is exposed to a world that constantly asks her to turn her back on the vows she took when she sided with the law. It is important, though never treated with obviousness, that the agent is female. She can kick ass, without having to give up her being feminine. Nevertheless, the system is still used to gender marginalization, and this fact is echoed by how often she is kept lurking in the dark by the CIA officer (Josh Brolin) who handpicks her for the mission, and Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), an enigmatic prosecutor. Both of them seem to fundamentally be nice guys, but equally capable of doing unspeakably horrible things, as seasoned veterans of the game.

Alejandro is a particularly fascinating characters. He says little, and his role in the mission remains mysterious until the very end. It was apparently Del Toro, featured here in his best performance since perhaps the afore mentioned Traffic, who advised the production to cut down on his character’s dialogue. Villeneuve, whose style often avoids relying on exposition of any kind in favour of a more visceral and amospheric approach, agreed, and the film is all the better for it.

Despite the thrilling action sequences, including its excellent shoot-em-up conclusion ala Zero Dark Thirty, and great turns by the cast, Sicario is quite challenging and will alienate anyone looking for a more commercial narcos thriller. However, the synergy between all of its elements, including the dust and flares of Roger Deakins arid and uncomfortable cinematography, and the significant contribution of the bass tones in Jóhann Jóhannsson’s minimalistic music score make it as remarkable, rewarding and downright troubling a take on morality in general as they come.” – 4/5

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