Dirty, Bloody, Scary… “Sicario” Film Review Dirty, Bloody, Scary… “Sicario” Film Review
Denis Villeneuve's ("Prisoner") drug cartel thriller starring Emily Blunt is declared as one of the finest cinematic treats of the year. Dirty, Bloody, Scary… “Sicario” Film Review

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Script: Taylor Sheridan

Cinematography: Roger Deakins

Score: Johan Johannsson

Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, John Bernthal, Jeffrey Donovan, Victor Garber, Maximiliano Hernandez, Bernardo P. Saracino, Julio Cedillo

Rated R: for strong violence, grisly images, harsh language

Runtime: 121 minutes

Sicario Blank Poster

“Nothing will make sense to your American ears…and you will doubt everything we do.

But in the end, you will understand.” 

– Alejandro

 

ATENCIÓN:

THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE

 

As a fan of suspense, action, thriller, mystery fare from movies/television/books, I was feeling a bit let down from this past summer’s second season of True Detective. Maybe Johnny Depp’s anticipated revisit to the crime/drama genre since 1997’s Donnie Brasco via Black Mass would cure my craving? No dice. Well, if you felt the same way as me, don’t fret. As director Denis Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins, composer Johan Johannsson, the Beautiful Blunt paired with the oldest “Goonie” and some guy named Benicio del Toro has “got your six” covered with Sicario.

A very well crafted, very well acted, very…well, damn near everything to be honest: neo-western action, suspense, thriller, horror (yeah horror!) crime drama epic mixtape of a movie. One that worked wonders in simultaneously keeping me engaged with it’s simple (yet still full of surprises) narrative, laughing along with it’s brief moments of gallows humor levity, whilst clenching my armrests during it’s intense/detailed action pieces. And overall, just basically freaking the hell out of me quite often during it’s running time.

Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a divorced, sort of ex-smoker, by the book FBI drug & kidnapping task force agent, who can wear the same bra and t-shirt for a week and still look fantastic (which I’m more than fine with since my crush on the Beautiful Blunt is everlasting, I digress). When a tactical raid in suburb of Chandler, Arizona for a case Macer’s unit has been working on goes F.U.B.A.R., a whole new world of crime and oppressive, brutal violence opens up to the unsullied and idealistic eyes of Kate. In light of these events, Macer is then recruited by the slipper wearing, flirty and flippant D.E.A / Department of  Defense middle man Matt Graver (a very good Josh Brolin). Who convinces Macer that joining him for an inter-agency operation in El Paso will get to the heart of the cartel-related violence that keeps bleeding into the Southwestern states.

Sicario Revelations

“Yup…this is F.U.B.A.R..”

 

She agrees to join Graver’s team much to her friend and FBI partner Reggie’s (Black Mirror’s Daniel Kaluuya, also very good) dismay. Reggie also studied law and did some tours in Afghanistan, so he’s leery of the slick speaking Graver at first glance. Having worked with folks like him overseas, trust is not a currency these types use to get what they want, but Kate feels that she needs to see how far this goes, and if her involvement can make any difference, she’s down for the sickness. Then the layers of the onion start to peel back slowly as Macer notices the clout Graver flashes, along with his very vague answers to her questions about the operation. “What? The bureau doesn’t offer travel accommodations like this.”  – Graver snorts as he flips off his sandals and stretches out to nap across the sofa of his private Gulfstream 650 jet. As the shadow of the G6 pans across the southwest, Rock star- cinematographer Roger Deakins captures some awesome shots of the arid landscape, from Arizona to “Teh-Hass”… he is also prepping the viewers for the drone-like, surveillance-, voyeuristic experience of the film. Which he and Villaneuve call back to later on during some key set pieces of Sicario.

“What happened in Chandler, you’re just cleaning up the leftover mess. If you really want to make a difference Kate…”

 

Here we also get Kate’s introduction to Graver’s assistant. A former prosecutor named Alejandro – played by del Toro…who suffice to say is very, very good in this role. To me, Benicio plays like three parts in this film…and he does it mostly using just his eyes, his physical presence, and very little dialogue. A combination of a mystery man with a heart of gold (okay maybe not gold, bronze perhaps?), Solid Snake, and Baba Yaga if that makes any sense. I think he surpasses his Oscar winning efforts of 15 years ago from Soderbergh’s earlier drug cartel cinema cousin, 2000’s Traffic. He does this thing with his body…which is just, well, you’ll know what I’m talking about if you see the movie.

Sicario The Jet

“I uhh…go wherever I’m sent.”

 

Once Kate (sort of) makes the acquaintance of Alejandro, she then gets settled in with Graver’s cohorts and the first “tree shaking” mission. “Oops, did I forget to mention that this op isn’t taking place in El Paso by the way?” – Graver reveals to Kate as she starts to unravel a bit, knowing she’s possibly in over her head now. A group made up of Matt’s  D.o.D/ D.E.A. specialist and border war history buff buddy Steve Forsing (the quirky Jeffrey Donovan of Burn Notice fame), two old school Texas Marshall’s with big guns and even bigger brimmed hats. Along with the accompaniment of black ops experienced Delta Force Operators, probably fresh off the boat from other dark and scary places around the world.

Then the first of a few really well made suspense/action sequences plays out as the team heads into the belly of “The Beast”, as Forsing calls it. Welcome to Ciudad Juarez – which was at one time the murder capital of the world – to extradite one of the cartel’s captured lords and bring him back across the border to El Paso. All in hopes of stirring the pot to root out the shadowy “El Jefe’s” of this particular cartel.

This is when the trifecta of Villeneuve, Deakins, and Johannsson create celluloid jazz together for some truly gripping cinema. As an audience member, you watch these scenes as if you are Kate. Eyes darting everywhere across the screen as the camera focuses, then loses focus on a masked state police officer, a suspicious civilian, a darkened corridor as the heavily armored caravan stops. What was that back there? All while trying to soak up as much info as possible of this alien world, just as Kate is. What did Alejandro say about the state police?  Are those firecrackers? “Nope those aren’t firecrackers Kate.” – Forsing exclaims as he spews out more historical info on Juarez. Then a faceless Delta Operator starts calling out over the comms to watch the rooftops. “Copy that, rooftops.” Then, Alejandro interrupts the Delta Op to watch for rogue spotters. “What?” Alejandro – “Rogue spotter left side, ready your service weapon Kate.”  Sicario’s can be anyone, ANYWHERE! There’s one behind you as you’re reading this right now!

 

Sicario Welcome To Juarez

“Umm…can we go home now?”

 

 

Sicario Alejandro 3

“R.O.E. is we cannot engage unless engaged upon.”

 

 

Sicario Service Weapon 2

“W.T.F.!!!”

 

These are the type of moments that Villaneuve does a superb job of immersing the viewer into his film. Blunt does fine work all throughout as well, being the audience vessel for this, and a few more booty clenching moments to come along on her journey.

You know those adverts of the Paranormal Activity series’ audience reaction in night vision camera dealios? It takes a lot for me to get scared from Hollywood fare anymore. All of the semi- annual Blumhouse produced horror stuff that modern gen movie folks find scary, yawn. But both times I saw Sicario… yikes! The film invoked the same jolting moments of genuine “jump-scare” release from the wonderfully executed tension all throughout.

Sicario is also probably the closest thing I’ll ever get to seeing a film version of author Cormac McCarthy’s (No Country For Old Men) poetically dark, ultra-violent American Southwest border war period piece Blood Meridian (since I think Ridley Scott isn’t attached to the project anymore). One particular thing I dug about the movie is how you see the horribly violent aftermaths of the world Kate is entering. We see the “procedure” in how Graver, his team and Alejandro operate…we know there are bad people doing horrible things, and we hope justice can prevail. But we never really see the “monsters” so to speak. Mostly just the tentacles of folks living with it (or making a living being a part of it), the Mules and the Pollo’s, the soldados and the innocents. Until we do… and it is then that all lines are blurred. When procedure is thrown out the window for a more archaic type of old world justice, prevalent in these same border towns throughout history, from the mid to late 1800’s until now… wild west indeed.

 

Sicario Sunset

“Stay frosty people.”

 

Another aspect I dug was the sense of foreboding, looming, all encompassing dread throughout Sicario. Johan Johansson’s unnerving score plays a big part in this. But then the script, the actors’ choices, or Deakins’ cinematography will lighten things up just enough to put you at ease before the next frightening surprise reveals itself as the story unfolds. An entertaining and intense mix of great film-making that finds itself in familiar territory with this genre’s best. As Villeneuve’s film shares the same space of creatives like Jonathan Demme (Silence of The Lambs), Tom Clancy’s novel Clear And Present Danger (also a Jack Ryan franchise film entry), Michael Mann (Manhunter, Heat, the underrated Miami Vice ’06), and David Fincher’s classico, gut-turning mood piece Seven.

 

Sicario Darkness Falls

Deakins captures some nice shots in “Sicario” for sure.

 

Sons of Anarchy actor/screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s script flows through the POV’s of the people involved, both innocently or willingly, caught up in these bloody chess games. “Dark” always needs “light” to have meaning, and vice versa (Deakins’ excellent work also plays with these elements in the film which I picked up on more during my 2nd viewing) and sometimes, there are no “right” sides, no absolutes when it comes to the worst of what humanity can become. Villeneuve’s film presents these themes to the audience with no favoritism of the players involved as we see the repercussions of these modern day brush wars.

 

Sicario Graver Night Ops

“The night is dark…”

 

Sicario Claustrophobic

“… and full of terrors.”

 

It’s all grey. A hot, claustrophobic, dirty, bloody, scary grey. Where heroes and villains truly exist only in our imaginations, at Comic-Con, during the 4th quarter of a Cowboys vs. Giants football game, or the final minutes of a Barcelona vs. Real Madrid futbol match. But the Boogeymen, the “Baba Yaga’s” on both sides are very real. Captain America or the heroic Luchadores? Not so much.

So bravo, Sicario. Welcome to my second favorite film of 2015 slot. Fitting snugly behind #1 MM:Fury Road, and knocking ’71 , Inside Out, It Follows, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, Straight Outta Compton down a few notches. While maybe not the most uplifting film out right now, and I’m sure Micheal Bay’s next black ops Benghazi actioner (which ran a preview before Sicario) will satisfy those domestic audiences that need clear “winners” portrayed in these kinds of movies. This one stays with you for awhile long after the credits roll… and it absolutely rattles you while watching it. Which for me makes Sicario one of the finest cinematic treats of 2015.

 

A couple selections from the sweet score if you want to peep it…

 

 

Author Image

Ken "kenchun24" Tomsyck

"My name is Ken and I bet you didn't know this - I'm Hawaiian, Chinese, German, French Ca-na-dian, and Polish!" I love my family, friends, food, film, and football (both versions).

  • Col. Tigh-Fighter

    Cool review. Looking forward to this one very much.

  • Col. Tigh-Fighter

    Villeneuve is a real talent. If you’ve not seen this before, check out this Gilliamesque short film he did a few years ago. Nice twisted and great fun. 🙂

    [vimeo 75251217 w=680 h=383]
  • Infinite Zissou

    The music reminded me very much of Burnett’s TD scores.

  • Infinite Zissou

    This movie just made me want to go home and be depressed for a couple years.

  • Infinite Zissou

    Somehow 2666 is the most optimistic depiction of Juarez I’ve come across.

  • Excellent review! Villeneuve can do no wrong (so far). What a self-confident artist.

  • Infinite Zissou

    Any idea if they shot the Juarez scenes in actual Juarez? The way it captured what it would feel like to drive through the streets was amazing. It felt accurate whether it was or not.

  • KilliK

    Does Blunt show her titties? that’s what matters.

  • Nope, she objected against nude scenes.

  • KilliK

    fuck her british ass then.

  • Infinite Zissou

    She does walk around in a bra for a second or so.

  • Apparently it was all filmed in Alburquerque.

  • Infinite Zissou

    Disappointing. But Villeneuve knows how to work with what he’s given.

  • Fuckin’ hell I wanna see this so bad. Nice job, Kenchun.

  • Pamela Schlosser

    ‎Last tuesday I got a top of the McLaren F1 from earning $16020 this last four weeks and also 15-k last-month . this is definitely the coolest work I have ever done . Without any question it’s the most financially rewarding Ive had . I started this 4 months ago & practicaIIy straight away began to bring home over $97 p/h .Visit weblink to start immediately.
    ..cv..
    ➤➤➤➤ http://GoogleSuperPayingTopJobsSelfEmploymentProjects/Get/Start/Today… ✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱✱

  • Stalkeye

    Hahaha! Look who’s back?
    Just might give this a watch based on your review.
    This is probably what a Call of Duty Movie should be like.

  • Stalkeye
  • Tarmac492.1

    so tired of these uppity skanks not showing the goodies.

  • WarBoychun24

    lol, Killik…like I told you before from my Edge of Tomorrow review back on TB, Lady Blunt does have some birthday suit action in a small indie coming of age flick called “My Summer of Love”. It gets swapped in and out on Netflix often. Bookmark and don’t forget 🙂

  • WarBoychun24

    Haha!

  • WarBoychun24

    Yeah man…digging his stuff. He’s on a roll.

  • WarBoychun24

    lol

  • WarBoychun24

    Yeah you should, it’s good stuff.

  • WarBoychun24

    Thx Better.

  • WarBoychun24

    Yo Stalks, yeah felt like appreciating something in the written form since it’s been awhile (and I really really dug it). I only ever played three C.O.D. games…Part 2 which was still in the WW2 theater, and then the first two Modern Warfare efforts (Part 4 and 2? I think since the timeline is goofy). Was reminded of the intense Favela level from MW2 for sure during Sicario.

    But I always like Ubisoft/Clancy’s G.R.A.W. and Rainbow Six stuff more than C.O.D.. Hope all is good.

  • Oh, I love ALL of those.

  • KilliK

    roger that. bookmarked and ready to download.

  • Stalkeye

    All is great and a hearty welcome back to ye, Bro!
    I love the COD Games and what’s funny is the recent stuff falls more into the HALO category than the modern warfare stuff. Activision has taken the SciFi route since last Year’s Advanced Warfare which is my favorite of the series so far. (However, those microtransactions have got to go!)

    I loved Ghost Recon Future Soldier but didnt care for the Multiplayer.
    Have you played the Rainbow Six closed beta yet?

  • Damn!!! This review KICKS ASS!!!

    This is how you do it, kids!! Respect!

    Damn, man!

    Ken, who are you and where you came from?

    And hopefully speaking for all others in here, welcome to the site. I hope and eager to read more form you in the very near future… like, tomorrow.

  • So this is the guy who’s directing Blade Runner 2? I’m starting to feel more confident now. At least the director is talented. The movie will not be good for lack of trying.

  • Stalkeye

    “Ken, who are you and where you came from?”

    He’s from AICN like many of us.

  • Stalkeye

    No Worries, Bro.
    You get plenty of that in person. (;’

  • Not from my time, i suspect. I don’t recall him. Did he had a different nick back then?

  • He already wrote a review for Mad Max here.

  • Oh really?

  • Stalkeye

    Kenchun

  • WarBoychun24

    Haha, yeah Asi been around for a few years now and chatted with ya before/often on Rose’s GoT threads, other reviews, your reviews, the disappointing J.J., the terrible Orci/Kurtzman duo, my love for Pacific Rim etc (AICN, Talkbacker, Nerdbong and here).

    But am pretty irregular on all the film talk sites during the non spring/summer movie months for sports. But thanks for the props on my thoughts on Sicario…not a critic, I just like waxing poetic on movies I really loved (only three “reviews” I ever did was Edge of Tomorrow on Talkbacker, and MM:Fury Road & Sicario on Supernaughts.

  • Man, i wish i had remembered you better. Sorry about that, mate.

    I truly think your review of Sicario is excellent. I’m really envious of what you did, in a good way and truly as a compliment to your work there.

    I plan on watching a frew of Villeneuve’s movies because he’s the guy who will direct Blade Runner 2 and i just want to know what kind of filmmaker he is. And the traler for Sicario was one of the top best trailers i ever seen in my life. I’m quite excited to watch that one, and anything that makes me think that the Br sequel might be in good hands is good news for me.

    I’d love to chat more wit you, don’t be a stranger and respond to my posts and please visit my articles and coment on them. Anythingto keep the talking going.

    Again, great review, man.