Monday, October 12, 2015
Photo: Sicario's movie poster, from its Wikipedia page.
A pulsing soundtrack, tense you-are-there direction, a fact-filled, dramatic screenplay and great performances--especially by Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt--all make this a great movie you just have to see. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is an unbelievable plus.
Modern political topics like the U.S. / Mexican border, violent drug cartels, and free-wheeling cops all converge when Blunt, a specialist at knocking down doors in prototypically suburban Chandler, Arizona, is asked to join some federal operatives as they try to interrupt the drug cartels.
It's some very serious stuff, handled stylishly and seriously by French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, who I've never heard of before. (The screenplay is also by guys I'm not familiar with.) There are a lot of helicopter shots--which actually deserve a special mention. These shots are not only beautiful and tense, but also weaved smartly into the plot and screenplay so they're not drawing attention to themselves. How's that done? By frequently having the characters talking to cops in helicopters "tracking" the bad guys via heat sensors and long-range video. Good stuff, but still things that can be done from the ground, or in advance. You'll see what I mean during the tunnel scenes; surely the drug traffickers can hear, if not see, a helicopter in the distance. But you don't think of that at the time, because everything's so tense and beautiful. There are some other nice directorial touches in those tunnel scenes. They grabbed me so much that I ate much less popcorn than usual.
Emily Blunt's character works very nicely as the audience stand-in figure. The movie has a you-are-there feel because she's there. She's always tense, scared, and confused--and so you are, too. The ads may make you think she's in almost 100% of the scenes. She's not. She's the main character, but quite a few scenes happen without her, especially those with Del Toro--who's the real scene-stealer of the movie. I've never seen him in a role like this. By the end, you'll be wondering who the real "bad guys" are. (But don't forget what the guy at dinner had hiding behind the walls in that house in Arizona.) Josh Brolin also does a good job in a small role. He's had many such roles before.
The music is so pulsating, so tense, so grabbing, that it almost transcends the film. (Currently I'm listening to it on YouTube. I'll probably buy it. It's that memorable.) It makes the tense scenes even more tense, almost unbearably so. It's very good.
Notice I've used the word "tense" a large number of times here. It's not necessarily lazy writing; the movie is, in a word, tense. Everything about it is tense: the acting, the action, the direction, the music. It may be the most tense two hours you spend at a movie. If you like that, go see it.
And let me know here who you thought the bad guys really were.
P.S.--On a side-note, kind of, ask yourself why Judas Iscariot had a last name in the Old Testament when nobody else did. Even Jesus was called Jesus of Nazareth, or The Nazarene, in His lifetime. (And he was called Joshue, or Joshua, of course, as well. Christ, for those who don't know, is a Greek word that means "Anointed One" or "The Lord." He was never known as Jesus Christ in His lifetime. Neither the first name, nor the last, was ever his own.) I mention all this because this movie begins with a definition of the word "sicario." Compare it with the word "sicarii." I'm just sayin'.