Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin
Some movies are hard to explain because you don't want to share too much of what makes it special. Case in point: Denis Villeneuve's eagerly anticipated Sicario. Rich in stand out performances and full of visual intrigue, Sicario may not make it in the awards race, but it will become a seasoned darling over time.
Emily Blunt steps out full force in her first true starring role as Kate Macer, a tough-as-nails FBI agent enlisted to assist a somewhat secretive government agency in the takedown of a drug lord just across the border. Always playing the game by the books, the secrecy involved leads Macer to question her fellow agents' (played to No Country for Old Men perfection by Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro) prerogatives, as well as that of the entire US government. The war on drugs is a fickle thing.
The pace feels slow-moving at first, but the payoff is never dull. As shown in his previous awards darling Prisoners, Villeneuve knows how to linger just long enough to create the perfect amount of suspense. Add to it cinematographer Roger Deakins impeccable ability to frame every day life in the most beautiful and interesting of ways and you have a treat like no other. Utilizing natural lighting, Deakins captures even the darkest, hard-to-see moments in a subtle and affecting way. We're left to hold our breath as Macer and her fellow agents dip deeper and deeper into the secret underground dwellings of Mexico's most ruthless and brave smugglers.
That lingering pace may be the piece of the puzzle that keeps Sicario from earning the following it deserves and, that lack of following, may keep it from earning the prestige it deserves. It isn't quite as harrowing as Prisoners in the sense of its suspense, but it's just as clever in its exploration of interesting characters and their surroundings.
Villeneuve knows how to use his landscape and atmosphere to his advantage. This is a perfect example of a film that doesn't feel the need to explain too much or fiddle too long with a backstory. The film trusts itself in delivering a plot believably enough that the audience jumps in and goes along for the explosive, bloody, and intelligent ride.
Kudos to Blunt and team. Brolin is quiet and stark. Del Toro is squeamishly charming and disgusting. It's a turn similar to Javier Bardem's bad guy in No Country for Old Men, minus the goofy haircut and a little less crazy. Still, twisted is as twisted does.
Runtime: 121 minutes