*The last paragraph expresses short analysis* The season of great movies is on its way. Speaking of great movies, we have Jem and the Holograms to look forward to!!! Ugh. . . I feel sick even joking about that. To stop me from vomiting, let's talk about this deserving film.
Sicario tells the tale of a FBI agent (Emily Blunt) who is working small scale to deal with drug problems. After she impresses government officials after surviving a horrific incident in the line of her work, she is recruited by a mysterious government group that specializes on the war on drugs at its source. That is what our film is about and I won't say much more, because the mystery of the film is one of the many reasons to see it.
Let me start by saying that there is one fundamental reason why I went to see Sicario: Denis Villeneuve. Previously he has directed the harrowing film Prisoners, as well as possibly the most unrecognized and underrated masterpiece I have ever seen, Enemy with Jake Gyllenhaal. There is very few film directors out there like Denis Villeneuve, at least at the skill level he is at. The man might be the best in the business at structuring a darker tone. Part of this definitely comes from ridiculously talented cinematographers (especially Roger Deakins) and composers; but most of this simply comes from his immense skill. Denis Villeneuve knows how to hold a feeling and escalate it to whatever effect he wants. This is shown in Sicario, as the intense action sequences are built up to terrifying levels as Villeneuve plays out the suspension. A lot of director will lay all their cards out on the table all at once, leaving nothing up to the imagination. Sure, Villeneuve eventually will show what is so terrifying - visually speaking, as well as morally and emotionally speaking - but he does it in good time for the full effect.
What makes Villeneuve all the more interesting, is the actors in his films. There always appears to be the perfect casting choice in his films to bring the most out of the story. This is shown with a chilling, empathetic performance from Emily Blunt and some uber charasmatic, hardened work from Josh Brolin, but the one who is easily the most memorable is Benicio Del Toro. I was cativated by his recent performance in Escobar: Paradise Lost, and I was hoping to see more of the same. He does not disappoint, providing possibly the most compelling character acting we've seen this year as a the mysterious tough guy in their task force.
All of this is made even more great by possibly the best cinematography seen on screen all year. The director of photography for Sicario, Roger Deakins, is a true legend, who has worked on more visually stunning film than I care to count. I'm not going to lie and say I'm an expert at what exactly constitutes someone who is truly brilliant in that department, but the reality is I was blown away with the camera work in Sicario from the start. To be honest, going into the film I didn't even realize that Deakins was shooting it. All I know is that my jaw immediately dropped from the creativity and brilliant complexity of just one of the sequences of cars riding over the Mexican border. Every creative shot/perspective is illuminated and lighted in the most eerie and beautiful way to spark your imagination to get ready for the horrors ahead.
It is these things and more, that make Sicario great. What doesn't make it great is the pacing towards the middle of the film. A good twenty minutes have could have been taken out of the second act. I understand wanting to have a fully fleshed out story with all the moving parts to make things make more sense later on. However, sometimes it is possible to beat these ideas over your audiences head too much till there is little of that exhilarating pace left, that made your film so special to begin with. Furthermore, when it comes to Sicario not being perfectly perfect perfection, it simply isn't as deep as it makes itself out be. It's thoughts on revenge and the merits on the war on drugs is relatively simplistic. However, and a big however at that, Sicario presents these ideas in such a way, being so incredibly violent and haunting, that these ideas carry much more weight than they should.
When it comes down to it, we have the ultimate question of whether this is a film worth seeing in theatres. I'm really struggling with this question as I am not certain if it will have the appeal for people not like myself. Unless you love Denis Villeneuve or movies on the war on drugs I wouldn't necessarily tell you need to see this film immediately, though I could be wrong. That being said, Sicario has problems. It is much to slow for its own good, treading boring minutia and details which makes the payoff not quite as brilliant as hoped for. That being said, when Sicario is great, it is better than anything else this year. Its brilliance keeps getting more romanticized in my head the more I keep thinking about it. The action/suspense sequences are built up to levels of intensity we rarely see on screen with some truly haunting performances from Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and especially Benicio Del Toro. Sicario also might be the best looking and sounding film all year in terms of cinematography and music; and when your film is as violent and emotionally grimy as this one is, that makes for some truly compelling art.
Personal Preference: 4/5
Critical Analysis: 4.25/5