Home » Sicario Video Review: Beautifully Shot Brutality

Sicario Video Review: Beautifully Shot Brutality

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In our new Sicario Video Review, Cinema Siren tells fans why the new film, while it may be difficult viewing, is still a must-see for Oscar watchdogs.

Here is a written transcript:

This week Canadian director Denis Villeneuve brings us the bloody, brutal film Sicario, starring Emily Blunt as a drug enforcement agent working to take down a Mexican drug lord.  Sicario means hitman, but does the movie deserve to make a killing at the box office?

Emily Blunt plays FBI agent Kate Macer, recruited by a government official for a task force hunting an ultra-violent drug czar responsible for an ever increasing body count.  She and her partner Reggie, played by English actor Daniel Kaluuya, try to stay alive long enough to unravel the complicated alliances and shady goings-on.  Josh Brolin plays a mysterious official in charge, and Benicio Del Toro is the spectacularly terrifying representative used to negotiating with both honest and corrupt police and navigating the US-Mexican border.

With each new film, Director Villeneuve (of Incendies, Enemy, and Prisoners, and the upcoming Blade Runner sequel) seems to build his career and reputation by upping the ante of intensity and dark suspense while examining the most rotten parts of humanity.  His films are extremely unnerving and hard to watch, but in this case, certainly worth it. He has said as a director he is fascinated by and drawn to what terrifies him, and here he makes that terror visceral, with every moment compelling to viewers, regardless of the pervasive brutality.

Emily Blunt triumphs in a game changing female archetypal role.  She may be capable of kicking bum, but she is increasingly stymied by the situation into which she is thrust. There’s never been a more believably tough, troubled, determined policewoman on film. She expands the cinematic language of what femininity means in the 21st century.  As Blunt’s character agent Macer falls down a rabbit hole of moral ambiguities and chaos, the actress brings the audience with her, into her fearful confusion and internal struggle.

Benicia Del Toro is laser-focused, as usual. It feels like if he looks into the audience he could melt our skins. He embodies the moral conundrum Sicario speaks to, Alejandro being both a surprisingly sympathetic and relentlessly cruel character.  Jon Bernthal is memorable in a small and pivotal role.

The atmosphere, full of palpable menace, is immeasurably aided by master cinematographer Roger Deakins, who at one point streams color into a house with corpse-filled walls.  He also finds a way to film a night scene that required special equipment, advancing the story as only he can.  Villeneuve, as with all the best directors, knows to trust others at the top of their art in the business, and 12 time Oscar nominated Deakins qualifies.  Here, he makes the landscape another character.  

The score by Johann johannsson aurally articulates the both the tension and despair.  I walked out of this film feeling battered and a bit nauseous from the brutality, so those sensitive to realistic portrayals of death and violence should either avoid the flick altogether or pop a valium beforehand.

You know those movies you LOVE and never want to see again? Denis Villeneuve seems to be collecting those. It begs the question, just how dark can a Blade Runner film be? We will soon find out.

Grade: A