Sicario

One of the most solidly directed films this year!


Sicario

  • One of the most solidly directed films this year!

Sicario

  • One of the most solidly directed films this year!


Rated

R

Starring

Emily Blunt
Benecio del Toro
Josh Brolin
Victor Garber
Daniel Kaluuya

Written by

Taylor Sheridan

Directed by

Denis Villeneuve



What to Expect

Denis Villeneuve.

Just the simple mention of this director’s name has me all pumped up to know what he’s professionally up to. And in today’s day and age, very few directors bring with them the possibility of inciting the kind of determination I have to check out the films of as soon as they’re out. And the very fact that he’s been signed up for the upcoming quasi-sequel to Blade Runner, which, till date, is one of Ridley Scott’s apparent masterpieces in science-fiction only goes to solidify my enthusiasm for him and his work.

But that’s not the only reason why I’m filled with an extreme thrill on wanting to watch the movie. Villeneuve is also the director of Enemy, which I personally considered to be one of the best movies of 2014. Add to that his choice in casting, comprising prominently of Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow), Benecio Del Toro (Escobar: Paradise Lost) and Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), and you’ve got within yourself a terrific set of reasons to go and watch the film already.

But do these decisions alone warrant a terrific film? I mean, let’s be completely honest here; you have a debutant screenwriter on your hands in the form of Taylor Sheridan (otherwise an actor popular for his recurring roles in television’s Sons of Anarchy and Veronica Mars). The skepticism, thus, lingers on in some forms. Far away from this skepticism, however, here was I. Pining for the film, if only for Villeneuve, Blunt and Del Toro, among others. The question thus lightly lingering my mind was if this film would live up to it.

And that, my dear reader friend, was to be seen.

What’s it About?

Pushed in favor by an elected government taskforce (possibly) headed by Matt Graver (Brolin), FBI agent Kate Macer (Blunt) decides to “volunteer” for an inter-agency drug-bust operation, which eventually leads her to Juarez, Mexico – crossing paths with the mysterious Alejandro (Del Toro) – in a mission to track down a drug lord.

And that is all I can say.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This is not my department.

Particles of dust.

Invisible to the naked eye, these particles can only be seen with the support of harsh sunlight. And through these gradually settling particles of dust, if a human being were to look for a specific particle to capture, how would they find it? And what if they didn’t know the first thing about what to do to find it?

Using the same as a solid, repeated visual reference, cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall), whose last collaboration with Denis Villeneuve in Prisoners seems to have given him the sort of extremely visible comfort level when generating a storyteller of a frame composition, gives us multiple closeups of sources of light gently throwing themselves upon the lightly descending particles. Villeneuve brings to light writer Sheridan’s unwitting protagonist Kate, and, along with her, makes us question whose side has she chosen to stand with. The differing behavioral patterns of the charming Matt and the relatively quieter Alejandro has her consistently questioning the utility her presence in a team with training and experience unlike her provides. She’s stuck in a seeming cluster of nowheres, unable to point out the “specific particle” she’s looking for to justify the operation.

SICARIO Day 01

The tough agent

Villeneuve brings in a certain edge to human subtleties, and – with the help of editor Joe Walker (a standout storytelling piece-of-the-puzzle of every single Steve McQueen directed film) – brings in a certain level of conviction to what he wants to show. Take, as an example, a scene early on in the film, where Kate is being questioned haphazardly by her superiors, and some officials she’s never met previously in her life. We then cut to a mid-shot of Josh Brolin, subtly – and yet observantly – watching her. As an audience, we can almost see the glint in his eye on finding a very important utility. An introspecting, often questioning Kate deserves a close-up. The Kate who’s deduced it all; who’s made a few realizations is often given a mid-shot to get even footing with the person she’s focussing on. And for the lost Kate, driven to desperation to find an answer, let’s put her in a wide-shot (cue the post-tollbooth action set-piece retaliation scene).

Sheridan’s story may give us a familiar vibe – an oft-seen drug-bust op with personal motives – to Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic and Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs (in light paintbrush strokes, del Toro’s character may subtly echo Anthony Hopkins’ towering character Hannibal Lecter in the latter).  This, however, is definitely arguable on many counts, a main one being the utter unpredictability of the whole narrative. Yes, on many counts, there is a definite anticipation of a looming disaster at every turn, but that cannot  – and should not – be mistaken for predictability. Anticipation almost never allows us to expect what’s the intensity of the disaster about to happen. Villeneuve takes complete advantage of the screenplay, allowing it to brim with a visual excellence; a sense of urgency through and through. Aerial shots of the desolate landscapes keep coming, time and again – as if asking us to help the film’s characters in finding the metaphorical needle in a haystack; a seemingly invisible clue in the grimy desolation of crime. The makers seem to have made terrific use of the hard work done by the production designers, and it shows.

Silhouettes and shadows

Silhouettes and shadows

Another gripe I can see the viewers having of the film is with the portrayal of its lead character – an often hapless Kate. Questions of the film being quasi-sexist may come to fore. But really, one has got to put themselves in her shoes. As introduced, she’s an exceptional addition to the FBI’s task-force. But when she’s enlisted (and volunteers herself) to go on a mission with a team that’s quite unlike her in training and experience, her idealism is shaken and thrown for a toss. A very funny piece of news I ended up passing my eyes by was that had Sheridan succumbed to the backers of this film, you’d be seeing a male lead instead of Blunt (’cause you can up the budget with movies led by males. Ugh). Which would then completely ruin everything, methinks.

Go conviction!

Deakins, as usual, displays his flair as a cinematographer, especially in scenes set in the nighttime, which I suspect is the prime reason he was hired to be the eventual cinematographer of Skyfall (remember the gorgeously lit nighttime action set-piece set within a skyscraper?). Most of these scenes are lit accurately and appropriately, going as far away from unrealistic lighting as possible. Wide shots in the evenings, as the sun sets, give the audience a chance to watch the gorgeous fusion of warm and cool color tones, giving the warmer colors (occasionally in the form of explosions and gunfire) a contrasting pop, which works largely in favor of the shot compositions this blend features in. Walker’s consistent editing helps drive this film to a large extent. Most of the movie is deliberately slow-burn, lingering on most shots a tad more than usual. The unpredictable turns in the action scenes thus come as a shock to the viewers; almost like a rug is swept off their feet. Another very integral part of the film that needs to be mentioned is the terrific sound design, which boasts of subtle mixing tricks that change a probably simplistic scene to a well-layered one. Imagine you standing at a bar, ordering a couple of beers, and trying to process the unbelievable turns your day took this morning. The music turns a touch hollow and muffled. Your absentminded, wandering self suddenly realizes you didn’t feel the want to grab a drink to think about these things. You’re back hearing the music clearly once again. This particular scene plays out without much audible difference in sound, but it definitely will help if, of the viewers watching the film, they did pay attention to the sound. The music by Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything), who previously teamed up with Villeneuve for Prisoners, is excellent. An understated fusion of orchestrated music and electronic production, the sounds take an appropriate dramatic turn, and never turn loud. in fact, in most scenes, the film decides against using any music. Silence sometimes helps enhance the emotion of anticipation more than anything else.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Between the darkness and the light

Between the darkness and the light

Emily Blunt, as I can see right now, will probably be the most underrated performer here. She shows her smarts, her anger and her vulnerability and gives her character an extra edge. She’s human, and we are able to understand that, and consistently become as frustrated and confused with the turn of events as she is. She’s a star performer, and – as we’ve seen in Edge of Tomorrow – an extremely confident one too. Benecio del Toro is an equal second, delivering what I believe to be one of his finest performances in a while. His intensity comes across, and we’re able to understand him, despite not knowing much about him throughout the film. Josh Brolin delivers an effortlessly charming performance. He comes across as a convincing master manipulator, and you never know whose side is he on. Jon Bernthal may have the shortest role of the lot, but delivers one of the strongest ten minutes of the film; yeah, he kinda Jon-Bernthals it, but it’s perfectly okay. Victor Garber supports efficiently, but from the lot of supporting actors, it is Daniel Kaluuya (Kick-Ass 2) who kills it. Maximiliano Hernández (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) may not have much screen time, but through the way his character’s placed, you’re already invested in him. And his sincerity helps. A lot.

Worth it?

Denis Villeneuve’s solid direction, an engaging trio of performers in the form of Blunt, Brolin and del Toro, and Roger Deakin’s terrific cinematography, with just the right salad-dressing that is Jóhannsson’s music, and spiced with just the right amount of thrills, courtesy its expansive, stunningly shot action set-pieces make Sicario a gorgeously tense, pulse-pounding action drama that has the inherent power to leave you consistently wide-eyed and on the edge of your seat, filled with the want to know where the film will take you next. This is definitely one of the most well-directed films this year, and – might I go out on a limb and say – one of the best films of this year.

Definitely recommended.

PS: This review doesn’t exhaust the amount I have to say on this movie.

Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us


Rated

R

Starring

Emily Blunt
Benecio del Toro
Josh Brolin
Victor Garber
Daniel Kaluuya

Written by

Taylor Sheridan

Directed by

Denis Villeneuve



What to Expect

Denis Villeneuve.

Just the simple mention of this director’s name has me all pumped up to know what he’s professionally up to. And in today’s day and age, very few directors bring with them the possibility of inciting the kind of determination I have to check out the films of as soon as they’re out. And the very fact that he’s been signed up for the upcoming quasi-sequel to Blade Runner, which, till date, is one of Ridley Scott’s apparent masterpieces in science-fiction only goes to solidify my enthusiasm for him and his work.

But that’s not the only reason why I’m filled with an extreme thrill on wanting to watch the movie. Villeneuve is also the director of Enemy, which I personally considered to be one of the best movies of 2014. Add to that his choice in casting, comprising prominently of Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow), Benecio Del Toro (Escobar: Paradise Lost) and Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), and you’ve got within yourself a terrific set of reasons to go and watch the film already.

But do these decisions alone warrant a terrific film? I mean, let’s be completely honest here; you have a debutant screenwriter on your hands in the form of Taylor Sheridan (otherwise an actor popular for his recurring roles in television’s Sons of Anarchy and Veronica Mars). The skepticism, thus, lingers on in some forms. Far away from this skepticism, however, here was I. Pining for the film, if only for Villeneuve, Blunt and Del Toro, among others. The question thus lightly lingering my mind was if this film would live up to it.

And that, my dear reader friend, was to be seen.

What’s it About?

Pushed in favor by an elected government taskforce (possibly) headed by Matt Graver (Brolin), FBI agent Kate Macer (Blunt) decides to “volunteer” for an inter-agency drug-bust operation, which eventually leads her to Juarez, Mexico – crossing paths with the mysterious Alejandro (Del Toro) – in a mission to track down a drug lord.

And that is all I can say.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This is not my department.

Particles of dust.

Invisible to the naked eye, these particles can only be seen with the support of harsh sunlight. And through these gradually settling particles of dust, if a human being were to look for a specific particle to capture, how would they find it? And what if they didn’t know the first thing about what to do to find it?

Using the same as a solid, repeated visual reference, cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall), whose last collaboration with Denis Villeneuve in Prisoners seems to have given him the sort of extremely visible comfort level when generating a storyteller of a frame composition, gives us multiple closeups of sources of light gently throwing themselves upon the lightly descending particles. Villeneuve brings to light writer Sheridan’s unwitting protagonist Kate, and, along with her, makes us question whose side has she chosen to stand with. The differing behavioral patterns of the charming Matt and the relatively quieter Alejandro has her consistently questioning the utility her presence in a team with training and experience unlike her provides. She’s stuck in a seeming cluster of nowheres, unable to point out the “specific particle” she’s looking for to justify the operation.

SICARIO Day 01

The tough agent

Villeneuve brings in a certain edge to human subtleties, and – with the help of editor Joe Walker (a standout storytelling piece-of-the-puzzle of every single Steve McQueen directed film) – brings in a certain level of conviction to what he wants to show. Take, as an example, a scene early on in the film, where Kate is being questioned haphazardly by her superiors, and some officials she’s never met previously in her life. We then cut to a mid-shot of Josh Brolin, subtly – and yet observantly – watching her. As an audience, we can almost see the glint in his eye on finding a very important utility. An introspecting, often questioning Kate deserves a close-up. The Kate who’s deduced it all; who’s made a few realizations is often given a mid-shot to get even footing with the person she’s focussing on. And for the lost Kate, driven to desperation to find an answer, let’s put her in a wide-shot (cue the post-tollbooth action set-piece retaliation scene).

Sheridan’s story may give us a familiar vibe – an oft-seen drug-bust op with personal motives – to Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic and Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs (in light paintbrush strokes, del Toro’s character may subtly echo Anthony Hopkins’ towering character Hannibal Lecter in the latter).  This, however, is definitely arguable on many counts, a main one being the utter unpredictability of the whole narrative. Yes, on many counts, there is a definite anticipation of a looming disaster at every turn, but that cannot  – and should not – be mistaken for predictability. Anticipation almost never allows us to expect what’s the intensity of the disaster about to happen. Villeneuve takes complete advantage of the screenplay, allowing it to brim with a visual excellence; a sense of urgency through and through. Aerial shots of the desolate landscapes keep coming, time and again – as if asking us to help the film’s characters in finding the metaphorical needle in a haystack; a seemingly invisible clue in the grimy desolation of crime. The makers seem to have made terrific use of the hard work done by the production designers, and it shows.

Silhouettes and shadows

Silhouettes and shadows

Another gripe I can see the viewers having of the film is with the portrayal of its lead character – an often hapless Kate. Questions of the film being quasi-sexist may come to fore. But really, one has got to put themselves in her shoes. As introduced, she’s an exceptional addition to the FBI’s task-force. But when she’s enlisted (and volunteers herself) to go on a mission with a team that’s quite unlike her in training and experience, her idealism is shaken and thrown for a toss. A very funny piece of news I ended up passing my eyes by was that had Sheridan succumbed to the backers of this film, you’d be seeing a male lead instead of Blunt (’cause you can up the budget with movies led by males. Ugh). Which would then completely ruin everything, methinks.

Go conviction!

Deakins, as usual, displays his flair as a cinematographer, especially in scenes set in the nighttime, which I suspect is the prime reason he was hired to be the eventual cinematographer of Skyfall (remember the gorgeously lit nighttime action set-piece set within a skyscraper?). Most of these scenes are lit accurately and appropriately, going as far away from unrealistic lighting as possible. Wide shots in the evenings, as the sun sets, give the audience a chance to watch the gorgeous fusion of warm and cool color tones, giving the warmer colors (occasionally in the form of explosions and gunfire) a contrasting pop, which works largely in favor of the shot compositions this blend features in. Walker’s consistent editing helps drive this film to a large extent. Most of the movie is deliberately slow-burn, lingering on most shots a tad more than usual. The unpredictable turns in the action scenes thus come as a shock to the viewers; almost like a rug is swept off their feet. Another very integral part of the film that needs to be mentioned is the terrific sound design, which boasts of subtle mixing tricks that change a probably simplistic scene to a well-layered one. Imagine you standing at a bar, ordering a couple of beers, and trying to process the unbelievable turns your day took this morning. The music turns a touch hollow and muffled. Your absentminded, wandering self suddenly realizes you didn’t feel the want to grab a drink to think about these things. You’re back hearing the music clearly once again. This particular scene plays out without much audible difference in sound, but it definitely will help if, of the viewers watching the film, they did pay attention to the sound. The music by Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything), who previously teamed up with Villeneuve for Prisoners, is excellent. An understated fusion of orchestrated music and electronic production, the sounds take an appropriate dramatic turn, and never turn loud. in fact, in most scenes, the film decides against using any music. Silence sometimes helps enhance the emotion of anticipation more than anything else.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Between the darkness and the light

Between the darkness and the light

Emily Blunt, as I can see right now, will probably be the most underrated performer here. She shows her smarts, her anger and her vulnerability and gives her character an extra edge. She’s human, and we are able to understand that, and consistently become as frustrated and confused with the turn of events as she is. She’s a star performer, and – as we’ve seen in Edge of Tomorrow – an extremely confident one too. Benecio del Toro is an equal second, delivering what I believe to be one of his finest performances in a while. His intensity comes across, and we’re able to understand him, despite not knowing much about him throughout the film. Josh Brolin delivers an effortlessly charming performance. He comes across as a convincing master manipulator, and you never know whose side is he on. Jon Bernthal may have the shortest role of the lot, but delivers one of the strongest ten minutes of the film; yeah, he kinda Jon-Bernthals it, but it’s perfectly okay. Victor Garber supports efficiently, but from the lot of supporting actors, it is Daniel Kaluuya (Kick-Ass 2) who kills it. Maximiliano Hernández (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) may not have much screen time, but through the way his character’s placed, you’re already invested in him. And his sincerity helps. A lot.

Worth it?

Denis Villeneuve’s solid direction, an engaging trio of performers in the form of Blunt, Brolin and del Toro, and Roger Deakin’s terrific cinematography, with just the right salad-dressing that is Jóhannsson’s music, and spiced with just the right amount of thrills, courtesy its expansive, stunningly shot action set-pieces make Sicario a gorgeously tense, pulse-pounding action drama that has the inherent power to leave you consistently wide-eyed and on the edge of your seat, filled with the want to know where the film will take you next. This is definitely one of the most well-directed films this year, and – might I go out on a limb and say – one of the best films of this year.

Definitely recommended.

PS: This review doesn’t exhaust the amount I have to say on this movie.

Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us

Cast Emily Blunt
Benecio del Toro
Joh Brolin
Director Denis Villeneuve
Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!

What to Expect

A lot on her mind

A lot on her mind

Denis Villeneuve.

Just the simple mention of this director’s name has me all pumped up to know what he’s professionally up to. And in today’s day and age, very few directors bring with them the possibility of inciting the kind of determination I have to check out the films of as soon as they’re out. And the very fact that he’s been signed up for the upcoming quasi-sequel to Blade Runner, which, till date, is one of Ridley Scott’s apparent masterpieces in science-fiction only goes to solidify my enthusiasm for him and his work.

But that’s not the only reason why I’m filled with an extreme thrill on wanting to watch the movie. Villeneuve is also the director of Enemy, which I personally considered to be one of the best movies of 2014. Add to that his choice in casting, comprising prominently of Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow), Benecio Del Toro (Escobar: Paradise Lost) and Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), and you’ve got within yourself a terrific set of reasons to go and watch the film already.

But do these decisions alone warrant a terrific film? I mean, let’s be completely honest here; you have a debutant screenwriter on your hands in the form of Taylor Sheridan (otherwise an actor popular for his recurring roles in television’s Sons of Anarchy and Veronica Mars). The skepticism, thus, lingers on in some forms. Far away from this skepticism, however, here was I. Pining for the film, if only for Villeneuve, Blunt and Del Toro, among others. The question thus lightly lingering my mind was if this film would live up to it.

And that, my dear reader friend, was to be seen.

What’s it About?

Pushed in favor by an elected government taskforce (possibly) headed by Matt Graver (Brolin), FBI agent Kate Macer (Blunt) decides to “volunteer” for an inter-agency drug-bust operation, which eventually leads her to Juarez, Mexico – crossing paths with the mysterious Alejandro (Del Toro) – in a mission to track down a drug lord.

And that is all I can say.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This is not my department.

Particles of dust.

Invisible to the naked eye, these particles can only be seen with the support of harsh sunlight. And through these gradually settling particles of dust, if a human being were to look for a specific particle to capture, how would they find it? And what if they didn’t know the first thing about what to do to find it?

Using the same as a solid, repeated visual reference, cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall), whose last collaboration with Denis Villeneuve in Prisoners seems to have given him the sort of extremely visible comfort level when generating a storyteller of a frame composition, gives us multiple closeups of sources of light gently throwing themselves upon the lightly descending particles. Villeneuve brings to light writer Sheridan’s unwitting protagonist Kate, and, along with her, makes us question whose side has she chosen to stand with. The differing behavioral patterns of the charming Matt and the relatively quieter Alejandro has her consistently questioning the utility her presence in a team with training and experience unlike her provides. She’s stuck in a seeming cluster of nowheres, unable to point out the “specific particle” she’s looking for to justify the operation.

SICARIO Day 01

The tough agent

Villeneuve brings in a certain edge to human subtleties, and – with the help of editor Joe Walker (a standout storytelling piece-of-the-puzzle of every single Steve McQueen directed film) – brings in a certain level of conviction to what he wants to show. Take, as an example, a scene early on in the film, where Kate is being questioned haphazardly by her superiors, and some officials she’s never met previously in her life. We then cut to a mid-shot of Josh Brolin, subtly – and yet observantly – watching her. As an audience, we can almost see the glint in his eye on finding a very important utility. An introspecting, often questioning Kate deserves a close-up. The Kate who’s deduced it all; who’s made a few realizations is often given a mid-shot to get even footing with the person she’s focussing on. And for the lost Kate, driven to desperation to find an answer, let’s put her in a wide-shot (cue the post-tollbooth action set-piece retaliation scene).

Sheridan’s story may give us a familiar vibe – an oft-seen drug-bust op with personal motives – to Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic and Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs (in light paintbrush strokes, del Toro’s character may subtly echo Anthony Hopkins’ towering character Hannibal Lecter in the latter).  This, however, is definitely arguable on many counts, a main one being the utter unpredictability of the whole narrative. Yes, on many counts, there is a definite anticipation of a looming disaster at every turn, but that cannot  – and should not – be mistaken for predictability. Anticipation almost never allows us to expect what’s the intensity of the disaster about to happen. Villeneuve takes complete advantage of the screenplay, allowing it to brim with a visual excellence; a sense of urgency through and through. Aerial shots of the desolate landscapes keep coming, time and again – as if asking us to help the film’s characters in finding the metaphorical needle in a haystack; a seemingly invisible clue in the grimy desolation of crime. The makers seem to have made terrific use of the hard work done by the production designers, and it shows.

Silhouettes and shadows

Silhouettes and shadows

Another gripe I can see the viewers having of the film is with the portrayal of its lead character – an often hapless Kate. Questions of the film being quasi-sexist may come to fore. But really, one has got to put themselves in her shoes. As introduced, she’s an exceptional addition to the FBI’s task-force. But when she’s enlisted (and volunteers herself) to go on a mission with a team that’s quite unlike her in training and experience, her idealism is shaken and thrown for a toss. A very funny piece of news I ended up passing my eyes by was that had Sheridan succumbed to the backers of this film, you’d be seeing a male lead instead of Blunt (’cause you can up the budget with movies led by males. Ugh). Which would then completely ruin everything, methinks.

Go conviction!

Deakins, as usual, displays his flair as a cinematographer, especially in scenes set in the nighttime, which I suspect is the prime reason he was hired to be the eventual cinematographer of Skyfall (remember the gorgeously lit nighttime action set-piece set within a skyscraper?). Most of these scenes are lit accurately and appropriately, going as far away from unrealistic lighting as possible. Wide shots in the evenings, as the sun sets, give the audience a chance to watch the gorgeous fusion of warm and cool color tones, giving the warmer colors (occasionally in the form of explosions and gunfire) a contrasting pop, which works largely in favor of the shot compositions this blend features in. Walker’s consistent editing helps drive this film to a large extent. Most of the movie is deliberately slow-burn, lingering on most shots a tad more than usual. The unpredictable turns in the action scenes thus come as a shock to the viewers; almost like a rug is swept off their feet. Another very integral part of the film that needs to be mentioned is the terrific sound design, which boasts of subtle mixing tricks that change a probably simplistic scene to a well-layered one. Imagine you standing at a bar, ordering a couple of beers, and trying to process the unbelievable turns your day took this morning. The music turns a touch hollow and muffled. Your absentminded, wandering self suddenly realizes you didn’t feel the want to grab a drink to think about these things. You’re back hearing the music clearly once again. This particular scene plays out without much audible difference in sound, but it definitely will help if, of the viewers watching the film, they did pay attention to the sound. The music by Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything), who previously teamed up with Villeneuve for Prisoners, is excellent. An understated fusion of orchestrated music and electronic production, the sounds take an appropriate dramatic turn, and never turn loud. in fact, in most scenes, the film decides against using any music. Silence sometimes helps enhance the emotion of anticipation more than anything else.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Between the darkness and the light

Between the darkness and the light

Emily Blunt, as I can see right now, will probably be the most underrated performer here. She shows her smarts, her anger and her vulnerability and gives her character an extra edge. She’s human, and we are able to understand that, and consistently become as frustrated and confused with the turn of events as she is. She’s a star performer, and – as we’ve seen in Edge of Tomorrow – an extremely confident one too. Benecio del Toro is an equal second, delivering what I believe to be one of his finest performances in a while. His intensity comes across, and we’re able to understand him, despite not knowing much about him throughout the film. Josh Brolin delivers an effortlessly charming performance. He comes across as a convincing master manipulator, and you never know whose side is he on. Jon Bernthal may have the shortest role of the lot, but delivers one of the strongest ten minutes of the film; yeah, he kinda Jon-Bernthals it, but it’s perfectly okay. Victor Garber supports efficiently, but from the lot of supporting actors, it is Daniel Kaluuya (Kick-Ass 2) who kills it. Maximiliano Hernández (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) may not have much screen time, but through the way his character’s placed, you’re already invested in him. And his sincerity helps. A lot.

Worth it?

Denis Villeneuve’s solid direction, an engaging trio of performers in the form of Blunt, Brolin and del Toro, and Roger Deakin’s terrific cinematography, with just the right salad-dressing that is Jóhannsson’s music, and spiced with just the right amount of thrills, courtesy its expansive, stunningly shot action set-pieces make Sicario a gorgeously tense, pulse-pounding action drama that has the inherent power to leave you consistently wide-eyed and on the edge of your seat, filled with the want to know where the film will take you next. This is definitely one of the most well-directed films this year, and – might I go out on a limb and say – one of the best films of this year.

Definitely recommended.

PS: This review doesn’t exhaust the amount I have to say on this movie.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

We’re viral

Like usFollow us
Cast Emily Blunt
Benecio del Toro
Joh Brolin
Director Denis Villeneuve
Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!

What to Expect

Denis Villeneuve.

Just the simple mention of this director’s name has me all pumped up to know what he’s professionally up to. And in today’s day and age, very few directors bring with them the possibility of inciting the kind of determination I have to check out the films of as soon as they’re out. And the very fact that he’s been signed up for the upcoming quasi-sequel to Blade Runner, which, till date, is one of Ridley Scott’s apparent masterpieces in science-fiction only goes to solidify my enthusiasm for him and his work.

But that’s not the only reason why I’m filled with an extreme thrill on wanting to watch the movie. Villeneuve is also the director of Enemy, which I personally considered to be one of the best movies of 2014. Add to that his choice in casting, comprising prominently of Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow), Benecio Del Toro (Escobar: Paradise Lost) and Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), and you’ve got within yourself a terrific set of reasons to go and watch the film already.

But do these decisions alone warrant a terrific film? I mean, let’s be completely honest here; you have a debutant screenwriter on your hands in the form of Taylor Sheridan (otherwise an actor popular for his recurring roles in television’s Sons of Anarchy and Veronica Mars). The skepticism, thus, lingers on in some forms. Far away from this skepticism, however, here was I. Pining for the film, if only for Villeneuve, Blunt and Del Toro, among others. The question thus lightly lingering my mind was if this film would live up to it.

And that, my dear reader friend, was to be seen.

What’s it About?

Pushed in favor by an elected government taskforce (possibly) headed by Matt Graver (Brolin), FBI agent Kate Macer (Blunt) decides to “volunteer” for an inter-agency drug-bust operation, which eventually leads her to Juarez, Mexico – crossing paths with the mysterious Alejandro (Del Toro) – in a mission to track down a drug lord.

And that is all I can say.

This is not my department

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Particles of dust.

Invisible to the naked eye, these particles can only be seen with the support of harsh sunlight. And through these gradually settling particles of dust, if a human being were to look for a specific particle to capture, how would they find it? And what if they didn’t know the first thing about what to do to find it?

Using the same as a solid, repeated visual reference, cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall), whose last collaboration with Denis Villeneuve in Prisoners seems to have given him the sort of extremely visible comfort level when generating a storyteller of a frame composition, gives us multiple closeups of sources of light gently throwing themselves upon the lightly descending particles. Villeneuve brings to light writer Sheridan’s unwitting protagonist Kate, and, along with her, makes us question whose side has she chosen to stand with. The differing behavioral patterns of the charming Matt and the relatively quieter Alejandro has her consistently questioning the utility her presence in a team with training and experience unlike her provides. She’s stuck in a seeming cluster of nowheres, unable to point out the “specific particle” she’s looking for to justify the operation.

The tough agent

Villeneuve brings in a certain edge to human subtleties, and – with the help of editor Joe Walker (a standout storytelling piece-of-the-puzzle of every single Steve McQueen directed film) – brings in a certain level of conviction to what he wants to show. Take, as an example, a scene early on in the film, where Kate is being questioned haphazardly by her superiors, and some officials she’s never met previously in her life. We then cut to a mid-shot of Josh Brolin, subtly – and yet observantly – watching her. As an audience, we can almost see the glint in his eye on finding a very important utility. An introspecting, often questioning Kate deserves a close-up. The Kate who’s deduced it all; who’s made a few realizations is often given a mid-shot to get even footing with the person she’s focussing on. And for the lost Kate, driven to desperation to find an answer, let’s put her in a wide-shot (cue the post-tollbooth action set-piece retaliation scene).

Sheridan’s story may give us a familiar vibe – an oft-seen drug-bust op with personal motives – to Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic and Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs (in light paintbrush strokes, del Toro’s character may subtly echo Anthony Hopkins’ towering character Hannibal Lecter in the latter).  This, however, is definitely arguable on many counts, a main one being the utter unpredictability of the whole narrative. Yes, on many counts, there is a definite anticipation of a looming disaster at every turn, but that cannot  – and should not – be mistaken for predictability. Anticipation almost never allows us to expect what’s the intensity of the disaster about to happen. Villeneuve takes complete advantage of the screenplay, allowing it to brim with a visual excellence; a sense of urgency through and through. Aerial shots of the desolate landscapes keep coming, time and again – as if asking us to help the film’s characters in finding the metaphorical needle in a haystack; a seemingly invisible clue in the grimy desolation of crime. The makers seem to have made terrific use of the hard work done by the production designers, and it shows.

Silhouettes and shadows

Another gripe I can see the viewers having of the film is with the portrayal of its lead character – an often hapless Kate. Questions of the film being quasi-sexist may come to fore. But really, one has got to put themselves in her shoes. As introduced, she’s an exceptional addition to the FBI’s task-force. But when she’s enlisted (and volunteers herself) to go on a mission with a team that’s quite unlike her in training and experience, her idealism is shaken and thrown for a toss. A very funny piece of news I ended up passing my eyes by was that had Sheridan succumbed to the backers of this film, you’d be seeing a male lead instead of Blunt (’cause you can up the budget with movies led by males. Ugh). Which would then completely ruin everything, methinks.

Go conviction!

Deakins, as usual, displays his flair as a cinematographer, especially in scenes set in the nighttime, which I suspect is the prime reason he was hired to be the eventual cinematographer of Skyfall (remember the gorgeously lit nighttime action set-piece set within a skyscraper?). Most of these scenes are lit accurately and appropriately, going as far away from unrealistic lighting as possible. Wide shots in the evenings, as the sun sets, give the audience a chance to watch the gorgeous fusion of warm and cool color tones, giving the warmer colors (occasionally in the form of explosions and gunfire) a contrasting pop, which works largely in favor of the shot compositions this blend features in. Walker’s consistent editing helps drive this film to a large extent. Most of the movie is deliberately slow-burn, lingering on most shots a tad more than usual. The unpredictable turns in the action scenes thus come as a shock to the viewers; almost like a rug is swept off their feet. Another very integral part of the film that needs to be mentioned is the terrific sound design, which boasts of subtle mixing tricks that change a probably simplistic scene to a well-layered one. Imagine you standing at a bar, ordering a couple of beers, and trying to process the unbelievable turns your day took this morning. The music turns a touch hollow and muffled. Your absentminded, wandering self suddenly realizes you didn’t feel the want to grab a drink to think about these things. You’re back hearing the music clearly once again. This particular scene plays out without much audible difference in sound, but it definitely will help if, of the viewers watching the film, they did pay attention to the sound. The music by Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything), who previously teamed up with Villeneuve for Prisoners, is excellent. An understated fusion of orchestrated music and electronic production, the sounds take an appropriate dramatic turn, and never turn loud. in fact, in most scenes, the film decides against using any music. Silence sometimes helps enhance the emotion of anticipation more than anything else.

Between the darkness and the ligh

To Perform or Not to Perform

Emily Blunt, as I can see right now, will probably be the most underrated performer here. She shows her smarts, her anger and her vulnerability and gives her character an extra edge. She’s human, and we are able to understand that, and consistently become as frustrated and confused with the turn of events as she is. She’s a star performer, and – as we’ve seen in Edge of Tomorrow – an extremely confident one too. Benecio del Toro is an equal second, delivering what I believe to be one of his finest performances in a while. His intensity comes across, and we’re able to understand him, despite not knowing much about him throughout the film. Josh Brolin delivers an effortlessly charming performance. He comes across as a convincing master manipulator, and you never know whose side is he on. Jon Bernthal may have the shortest role of the lot, but delivers one of the strongest ten minutes of the film; yeah, he kinda Jon-Bernthals it, but it’s perfectly okay. Victor Garber supports efficiently, but from the lot of supporting actors, it is Daniel Kaluuya (Kick-Ass 2) who kills it. Maximiliano Hernández (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) may not have much screen time, but through the way his character’s placed, you’re already invested in him. And his sincerity helps. A lot.

Worth it?

Denis Villeneuve’s solid direction, an engaging trio of performers in the form of Blunt, Brolin and del Toro, and Roger Deakin’s terrific cinematography, with just the right salad-dressing that is Jóhannsson’s music, and spiced with just the right amount of thrills, courtesy its expansive, stunningly shot action set-pieces make Sicario a gorgeously tense, pulse-pounding action drama that has the inherent power to leave you consistently wide-eyed and on the edge of your seat, filled with the want to know where the film will take you next. This is definitely one of the most well-directed films this year, and – might I go out on a limb and say – one of the best films of this year.

Definitely recommended.

PS: This review doesn’t exhaust the amount I have to say on this movie.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

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Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

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