December 25, 2015


Denis Villeneuve, 2015
A common theme in Canadian-director Villeneuve's films is uncertainty. Particularly uncertainty about a person, if that person is the person that you think they are. It's certainly a theme in Sicario, Villeneuve's seventh feature film. When it comes to the Mexican cartels, finding someone you can actually trust is a rarity. With the Mexican State Police on the Cartel's payroll, the CIA working covertly underneath the nose of many other government agencies, the list of people you really know is very short. So it isn't unusual for Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) to be suspicious of why she is thrown into the middle of the fray. She is told by her higher ups that she will be helping them "shake things up" and "make noise". She is told that it's a thing that they do to force Cartel members to act impulsively and make mistakes. Kate is definitely the moral force at work in the film, never really comfortable with the circumstances she is put in and the decisions that she is forced to make. Blunt is a proven acting force at this point and holds her own alongside Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin. 

What transpires is skillful filmmaking in line with good storytelling blended with skilled acting, which one comes to expect from Villeneuve at this point. He has yet to make a disappointing picture. While none of this films are as impactful as the very much under-rated Incendies, you see constant improvements in his craft. At times Sicario is reminiscent of the night vision sequences of Zero Dark Thirty. Certainly up there with some of the intensity fueling everything. The story certainly doesn't hide it's comparisons to the Mexican Cartel and the U.S. Government, and whether or not they are actually that different from each other. One interesting consideration is how you notice the Cartel members are family men, or at least have people to go home to. The American characters are more career-focused, married to their jobs.

Sicario certainly blends elements from films like the aforementioned Zero Dark and even some of the southern border bloodshed of Breaking Bad. But it feels like a movie that might be too stable, too uniform. His other work leaves you with images and story-threads that you will never shake. Sicario feels like a solidly made film that won't leave you with the same memories.

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