~ Not one for Horror? Villneuve’s terse crime thriller has you covered ~
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Breaking Bad introduced a whole new generation to the visceral and virulent reality of the war on drugs. The bleak and weary Albuquerque landscapes eluded to a desolate microcosm of American hibernation. Channeling the memorable widescreen vistas honed by Michael Slovis throughout the Breaking Bad series Roger Deakins had some quality source material for his step into the dusty south as DoP for Sicario.
Building upon his impressive photography for Skyfall with some stunning shot manipulation and experimental techniques Deakins complements Dennis Villneuve’s direction and Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay with some stunning shots that draw the viewer into the tense loneliness of Emily Blunt’s protagonist.
Idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer, played by an intense Emily Blunt, is struggling to make a difference in cartel operations working as a kidnap and rescue operative on the frontline in Arizona. When her team carry out an armed raid on a local cartel hideout she discovers the walls of the building are lined with the victims of gratuitous cartel malevolence.
Hit by the harsh reality that her efforts are greatly overshadowed by the increased cartel operations on US soil Macer finds herself interviewed by DOD advisors for a special operation behind enemy lines in Juarez, Mexico.
Spurred by her idealism Macer signs on as a volunteer and is soon thrust into the action at a tense border crossing as her team kidnap a leading member of the Mexican cartel. Stunned by the complete disregard for lawful measures practised by Matt Graver, a CIA agent played by Josh Brolin, she is soon served an uncomfortable reality check.
Her discomfort is further exacerbated by the presence of the mysteriously short spoken Alejandro, brought to life brilliantly by Benicio Del Toro in one of the stand out performances of the year. Muttering very little but chilling philosophical truths Alejandro fulfils the role of a sententious on-looker hiding an alterior motive from Macer. Her suspicions are soon put to the test in a dramatic, beautifully shot sequence with ostensible purposes.
"You're asking me how the watch is made. For now just keep your eye on the time." Alejandro
Blunted by the cold blooded murder of his wife and child Alejandro is more than just a DOD advisor and Macer soon discovers herself to be in a position that could jeapordise her lawful integrity and her safety.
It’s through the uncomfortable muddied immorality that Sicario unfolds: leaving the viewer desperate for some semblance of stereotypical normalness of good versus evil. But Sicario refrains from such black and white binary opposition and instead exposes a harsh truth about the war on drugs that may leave many wanting a Bad Boys II.
But the message is harder hitting than any blockbuster grand finale, no more so evident than in the closing sequences.
Villneuve’s discerning vision of Sheridan’s well versed screenplay takes the viewer to a recognisable plain but delivers an unprecedented exposé on the brutal realities of cartel warfare that leave us stunned. Sicario sustains seamless tension throughout as Blunt’s stubborn vulnerability is balanced with Brolin’s machismo and Del Toro’s mysterious past.
Sicario doesn’t tiptoe around venality, violation or violence. This Must-see delivers a vehemently potent (read: worrying) image of extreme organised crime filtering its way into America’s modern cultural history. A surprisingly deep tale that Dennis Villneuve chillingly exposes, including the far reaching arm of the war on drugs that destroys the lives of innocent victims capable of altering national consciousness.