All the pieces matter in Sicario, one of the decade’s best crime thriller’s. Villeneuve’s tension ripping directing, Sheridan’s sharply brisling script, Roger Deakins' stunning cinematography, Johann Johannsson’s thundering soundtrack and, of course, the dynamic group of actors including Blunt, Brolin and Del Toro. Sicario doesn’t ooze tension; it rapidly punches you with it from minute one by launching you into the viewpoint of FBI agent Kate Macer (Blunt). Her badass, no-nonsense attitude rewards her with a job in the government task force charged with stopping the war on drugs at the border between the US and Mexico.
There is such a thing as surviving a film. When it's so tension filled that you forget to breath or you curl your toes up then you know you’ve been sucked into an immersive experience. And if that immersion is a take on a real life war then it becomes a survival film on and off screen. Sicario is such a film. Cleverly shot from Macer’s POV, the film gives the viewer the experience that she is dealing with. Initially everything seems cool and calm. That is until a standoff gun battle located on a bridge between the US and Mexican border. This scene is a gut punch of terror as it robs the senses of knowing what is happening at any given second.
Played on a knife edge of tension that soon escalates into unrelenting panic, this is movie-making at its absolute best. It’s a gun battle that doesn’t need to explode in a hail of bullets but rather in a string of tension-filled footsteps. Three other set pieces ripple through the movie, initially seeming like insignificant moments they soon widen out a bigger picture for Macer that things are not being played out within the laws that she has trained under. During the quieter, more relaxed moments for Macer, she is questioning the motives associated with the group she has joined. She wants to be let in but is being kept at arm’s length. Going for a beer on a night off proves complex and complicated for Macer. Soon the wider picture becomes clearer for her and it’s a tangled web of secrets and lies that culminates in a shockingly brutal and unflinching finale.
Blunt’s Macer is one of modern cinemas finest action hero females. Cool, calm and collected one minute. Then within sixty seconds a powerhouse of brutality. Brolin’s twisty government agent is one to keep watch on. Benicio Del Toro’s Sicario operates in a grey area that allows him to be the ghost. A role, and performance, that starts quietly and then builds and builds to a crescendo. It’s his finest performance for years.
Director Denis Villeneuve’s take on the war on drugs is equal parts drama and horror. This style of movie making – in your face and at a hectic pace – takes no prisoners. Watching Sicario is an endurance test – you have to endure 121 minutes of sheer intensity. Prepare to be battered by one of the most gripping and disturbing thrillers in years.