A dark view of the world shines in Sicario


courtesy imdb

The difference between good and evil blurs in Sicario.

A few years ago, French-Canadian film seasoned director Denis Villeneuve, responsible for a few independent films in his home country, made an international splash with the drama “Incendies.” This earned him an Academy Award nomination and the admiration of a small but vocal number of filmgoers. Following this he consecutively released two mystery thrillers, the masterful “Prisoners” and the bizarre but strongly made identity thriller, “Enemy.” With his newest film, “Sicario,” not only has Villeneuve continued to perfect his filmmaking, but he has produced the best film of the year.

The movie follows idealistic but naive FBI agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), who has grown tired of being part of the “clean-up crew” for the heinous acts committed by the various drug cartels of Mexico, who are slowly taking over the southern United States. Kate finally reaches her breaking point following a raid on a suspected cartel safehouse which results in the clean up of executed cartel victims. This is one of the most masterful, tense openings I’ve seen.

In the aftermath, Kate is given a choice by her superiors: to continue working as simply a janitor for the cartels in her department, or to take part in a joint agency operation. The operation is led by two Department of Defense advisors, the carefree Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). Kate chooses to work with the Department advisors, with the promise that they will catch the people responsible for the death and destruction caused by the cartels. This promise slowly unravels as the operation becomes dirty and morally questionable and Kate begins to regret her decision.

The audience is drawn into the story by the cinematography of Roger Deakins (“Prisoners,” “Skyfall,” “Fargo”) and the menacing and intense soundtrack by Johann Johannsson (“Prisoners” and “The Theory of Everything”). Villeneuve’s direction is impeccable, with every set-piece and action bringing you to the edge of your seat.

According to Case Western Reserve University student Aditya Kamat, “It is an intense ride, but it is very dark and gloomy, maybe too much for some.”

Indeed the film is not for the faint of heart, as a sense of faltering hope and intense nihilism pervades every scene.

It is certainly tough to sit through.

The performances from all the actors are fantastic, with Blunt delivering a sympathetic performance as an agent out of her element and Brolin giving a strong performance as the unorthodox, wisecracking operative Matt as he clashes over right and wrong with Kate. The standout is Del Toro, who delivers an awards-caliber performance as a supposed foreign agent (though his true professional ties are gradually revealed), a force to be reckoned with, intensified by his tragic character development. Overall this film is a trifecta of brilliance, driven by the actors, cinematography and the direction. “I can’t wait to see it again, just too good,” said Kamut.

Villeneuve himself described the film as “a beautiful dark poem.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Film: “Sicario”
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Release Date: Sept. 18, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★