Sicario Review

  • Directing8
  • Writing7.5
  • Acting8.5

Denis Villeneuve's Sicario is dark and twisted, full of moody atmosphere and questionable characters, but the film succeeds thanks to Villeneuve's beautifully haunting direction and a trio of complex performances.


Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve returns with Sicario — another moody and atmospheric drama, this time surrounding the never-ending war against the drug cartel, with Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro starring in a film that’s dark, twisted and always questioning the morality of its characters.

Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a by-the-books FBI agent with a real hard on for shaking trees and getting things done. She’s a go-getter that constantly pushes forward, but always maintains a clean moral slate as she trenches through the disturbing world of hunting down members of the drug cartel.

She loves her job, despite its hardships and wants to do whatever it takes to bring the bad guys down as long as she remains on the right side of the law.

Which makes things tricky when she’s tasked with joining a shady team, led by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and featuring an assortment of muscle, including Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro).

Now, Kate must figure out just how far she’s willing to go to defend the law and protect her own life before she gets in too deep and can’t find her way back.

Denis Villeneuve‘s Sicario is a bleak film, set among the backdrop of the hot and sticky parts of Arizona, Texas and Mexico. It’s literally dripping with sweat and surrounded by darkness as Villeneuve and his DP Roger Deakins shoot some truly beautiful, yet haunting and disturbing shots that make Sicario fall right in line with Villeneuve’s body of work, including his most recent film Prisoners.

Prisoners is a small town mystery shot with lots of style whereas Sicario expands the setting and captures multiple locations with that same style and slow-burn feel. Villeneuve’s films move at their own pace and some might find that frustrating, while others will appreciate his attention to detail and ability to slowly escalate drama without ever wasting too much time.

And Villeneuve succeeds because of his eye for talent and capturing just the right performances.

Emily Blunt‘s Kate is a motivated and strong FBI agent plucked completely out of her realm of comfort and she portrays that with a certain measure of fear and restraint. She’s not exactly sure where she’ll end up at the end of the day, yet she faces that uncertainty with an enormous amount of courage and selflessness.

She does it partly out of curiosity, but mostly out of what she feels is the right thing to do, which could possibly help put an end to the war on drug cartels.

Josh Brolin‘s Matt Graver is the type of shady government agent that you’re never quite sure of. He seems laid back and simple until the mission starts and he slowly reveals his true self, which is that of a man that works above the law and around it if necessary.

Brolin brings his usual likability and charm, while still keeping a strong grasp on his character’s lack of reveal and information. You never quite know what his agenda is until it’s too late and that makes Matt a slight surprise to the film’s greater story.

The biggest and best kept secret of the film is played by Benicio Del Toro with a great deal of inner-fury and even more mystery. Watching Del Toro’s Alejandro remain so calm and quiet throughout most of the film almost always brings up an uncomfortable feeling, because you know something is brewing and that he’s going to let it out at any given second.

This is a role that Del Toro absolutely chews up and spits out, stealing all of the thunder and spotlight from his co-stars with ease.

There’s already talk of a sequel in the works, which has me guessing what the heck it’ll be about, but I don’t really care as long as Del Toro returns in some way. My biggest complaint with the film is that he’s not given enough screen time, despite remaining the most important part of the film.

Denis Villeneuve seems to understand that and he translates that to the screen in a teasing manner that always hints, but never fully reveals and it’s an annoying experience that mostly pays off, but will surely push away lots of audience members looking for something a little more digestible.

Sicario isn’t for everyone. Those that discover it and find that they enjoyed it and it’s slower-than-normal pacing will probably be placing it high on their end of the year lists, because it really is a well-made film.

Denis Villeneuve continues to plaster his trademark visual style all over Sicario, giving audiences a slow-burner that drenches itself in atmosphere and uncertainty, slowly exposing its questionable motives through shady characters that never quite explain themselves. If that sounds like your kind of film, then by all means check it out, because it does feature yet another impressive Benicio Del Toro performance and that alone is worth the price of a ticket.

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