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Member Since: August 3, 2012
Feb 13 17 5:44 PM
Plot: An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.
Sicario is a tensely packed thriller that does not let its’ audience relax for the duration of the two hours. It is harsh on the eyes and does not shy away from violence, but I didn’t find it gratuitous and that works fine for me in a film. I don’t appreciate senseless violence that serves only to shock and not to further the story. Sicario’s gritty crime scenes will undoubtedly stay with you but it is more because of what it indicates of the world than the violence itself.
I was under the impression and still am that the entire cast delivered a stellar performance. The most outstanding is without a doubt Benicio Del Toro. He was incessantly praised for his work as Alejandro and after seeing him at it I am not in the least surprised. Alejandro’s motives aren’t clear and he’s not your average black or white character. Is he a good guy? Is he a bad guy? It is obvious that you shouldn’t mess with him and that he is dangerous and well versed in drug trafficking. Up until the very end you still don’t know whether you can trust him. Hell, I’m still not even sure whether he is GOOD or BAD. I really liked that he was so short with Kate in the beginning and eventually thawed towards her, yet never deviating from his overall mission.
It would be easy to overlook Josh Brolin, who played his character with cockiness that was wildly appealing. It would also be quite unfair because there were times where I really wanted more of him on screen because he was every bit as shady as Alejandro, only more good natured about it. It is also impossible to trust him one hundred percent. He and Alejandro are clearly thick as thieves and they share trust, but are they who they say they are?
Then there was Kate who is brought to the screen by Emily Blunt. I am always onboard with watching a drama that has Blunt in, she is exceptionally good in dramas and action films. I know some people thought she was a bit hyper emotional. Was she emotional? Yes. Was she also a young, optimistic FBI agent that got pulled in deep very quickly? Also yes. I won’t say that I wish the character had had the balls to fight back at her enemies, but I did enjoy her.
There are a lot of other actors I enjoyed – Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, and Daniel Kaluuya had their time on screen here and I loved them for it. I am such a major fan of Victor Garber. You can’t watch Alias and not be, he is one of the very best in there. I really haven’t seen Bernthal in anything actually, although I have heard of him and for the few moments he was here I was highly appreciative. Daniel Jaluuya was Kate’s partner, and he had perhaps even a more optimistic opinion of the law enforcement world. They had a sweet relationship full of friendship and support and genuine care.
I have to say one of this film’s greatest accomplishments is that it kept my attention. For the two hours I was engrossed and didn’t want to stop watching once. I can’t tell you how rare that is, as I am fully convinced I have some adult ADHD because I get bored and distracted quite easily. That, combined with how boring movies can get these days, makes it just short of a miracle that I was engaged the entire time. The last half an hour had me holding my breath. It was tense and up until the very end I really couldn’t predict who would walk out alive.
If I had taken the time to watch Sicario in 2015, it probably would have ended up really high on my 2015 TOP TEN films. I was immensely pleased to hear that director Denis Vileneuve is planning to to make this a franchise by directing Soldado, in which, Soldado in which Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro reprise their roles. I’m raising my hand here in the “Who can’t wait” department, and I will be first in line to buy a ticket. I will also commit to watching Prisoners – I’ve been hounded by people to watch this film for ages now, but now that I know how good director Vileneuve is I will definitely give it a try.
Mar 21 17 6:08 PM
Dear Emily BluntAudience Surrogate/Star
In a film as morally oblique as Sicario, it is imperative for the audience to have someone to attach themselves to as the story unfolds. Your character, Kate Mercer—a driven but relatively inexperienced FBI agent—is that anchor. When she is seconded to the DOD, ostensibly as an expert in hostage situations, it seems as if she is being given an opportunity to actually make a dent in the upper echelons of the Mexican cartels.
Initially the operation appears pretty straightforward—but it quickly becomes clear to both Kate, and the audience, that nothing is what it seems.
Throughout the film—and this is one of the many devices used to maintain an uncomfortable tension—Kate is constantly frustrated in her attempts to obtain even the most basic information from her new colleagues. This opaqueness, rather than discouraging her, makes Kate more determined to penetrate the byzantine world she has been drawn into. Her persistence is admirable but it is also the lever used to manipulate her. Kate’s principled commitment to her vocation is her Achilles heel.
Sicario is a difficult film for a number of reasons. The central theme is the unmitigated disaster that the perpetual war on drugs has engendered in the countries involved as well as the various law enforcement agencies engaged in that never-ending conflict. The policy failure at all levels and the collateral damage those policies inflict on the civilian populations is a given in this film—regardless of the empty bravado of characters like Josh Brolin’s DOD agent and the peculiar Colombian Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro, doing his best work in years). There are no heroes in Sicario. The characters are either morally bankrupt, ineffectual, enmeshed in events beyond their control, or simply too civilized to survive the snake pit that the Mexican/US border has become.
The violence that these policies spawn is present from the beginning of the film and is ubiquitous throughout. And despite Roger Deakins extraordinary cinematography and Denis Villeneuve’s superlative direction, that brutality is nothing but ugly. There are a number of technically superior sequences in Sicario but none of them leave you feeling anything but unsettled. There is never a moment where the violence achieves anything other than multiplying the root difficulties. Each death simply leads to more of the same, whatever the empty ambitions and rationales of the men involved. And it is always a man, and a very particular sort of man, that initiates the violence.
That’s why your character is so important, Emily. Not only is Kate the only women involved who isn’t simply a bystander, but she also comes to stand for most of us; competent, engaged, but out of her depth and completely unable to operate with the casual viciousness required to survive in the moral vacuum these men seem to thrive in.
Sicario is what enforcement becomes when separated from the rule of law—a series of vendettas and power plays that see whole families butchered in the name of expedience and the vague goal of some sort of manageable equilibrium. That your character is unable to swim with this particular school of sharks is neither a character flaw nor a weakness, it is simply the consequence of living within boundaries most of us never see a need to test. Kate’s final choice in the film is the only one a moral human could make, yet it is also the reason we may all fall.
Member Since: June 9, 2004
Mar 22 17 7:21 AM
Member Since: February 13, 2006
Mar 22 17 10:39 PM
Mar 23 17 3:38 AM
Apr 7 17 6:09 PM
The pulse of Sicario will quicken yours. We should expect as much knowing the work of director Denis Villeneuve (Enemy, Prisoners) who's quickly becoming the most reliable suspense filmmaker today. Sicario is a film of increasing danger. It's like the trash compactor scene in Star Wars strung out for 121 minutes. Villeneuve takes us inside the cartel war in Mexico to the middle of the compactor, where the walls, quite literally, start closing in.
Timelines is next to godliness in filmmaking and Sicario is for the moment. With border politics constantly in American news cycles and cartel violence covering front pages in Mexico, the drug war has only escalated since its 1970s inception. Villeneuve's film doesn't shy away from the hopelessness. It embraces it, even forcing it upon us.
Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is the film's hope. She's FBI and busy raiding stash houses in Arizona with her partner Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) and SWAT. One house is full of dead bodies, over 40 of them packed into the drywall like insulation. What can the law do in the face of such evil?
That question has been asked many times in movie history and Sicario works in the same underdog fashion. Kate is asked to "volunteer" for a government task force by a Department of Justice liaison, Matt (Josh Brolin) and, convinced her work is merely "sweeping up the mess," she accepts, although she has no idea what she's gotten herself into.
On the plane to "El Paso" which ends up in Mexico, Kate meets a quiet man named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). She probes him for answers but he tells her she's asking "how a clock works," and tells her to just "focus on what time it is." Confused, but dedicated to making a difference, Kate shuts up and goes along for the ride... for awhile.
The entrance into Mexico is worth salivating over. Roger Deakins' stunning cinematography is paired with a pounding score by Jóhann Jóhannsson that builds and explodes once we cross the border. The hellish red desert doubles as a gateway to the underworld. One shot, near the end, speaks volumes: The camera stops and watches the soldiers descending a hill at dusk. Two by two, their silhouettes merge with, then disappear into the darkness below—a chilling vision. Deakins' technical ability and Villeneuve's masterful eye makes Sicario an orchestra of suspense. Every shot feels thoughtful. The camera seems to know everything and nothing at the same time.
In Juárez, AKA "The Beast," Matt and Alejandro lead a team of special forces through the narrow city streets. They're evacuating a cartel underboss, as Kate learns on the fly, and taking him back to the States where the two team leaders interrogate him in hilarious and menacing fashion. Both Brolin and Del Toro are magnetic. Brolin wears a wry smile, constantly talking but saying nothing. Matt loves his work in the shadows and Brolin brings that joy to the character. His glee at seeing Alejandro torture people borders on sadistic, but you can't help but smile with him. And Del Toro, as he was in Traffic, is perfectly suited to his role. Alejandro is a quiet intimidator and a machine with a weapon. Del Toro makes you believe it all, in a performance the kids might call "fucking badass."
With information gleaned from their "cooperative" detainee, the task force heads out on a clandestine mission that should reap huge dividends. Kate's eyes finally open and she's faced with a daunting decision between two rights or two wrongs, depending on the viewpoint. Black and white doesn't exist in Sicario. This is a film of gray areas and writer Taylor Sheridan's script reveals nothing as the finale is, gloriously, always in question. Blunt, as Kate, does the same. She's no righteous hero. She's uninformed, but well familiar with the devil at hand. One of the film's many suspenseful strings is seeing how far she'll go against her own instinct. As she becomes embroiled deeper, her desire to know everything puts her life at risk. Blunt vacillates between enthralled and exasperated in another steely-eyed physical performance. Her final scene is as moving as anything you'll see onscreen this year.
Cartel films are nothing new. The Counselor explores the death sentence dealing with them imposes, as does End of Watch. While smaller films, like Sin Nombre and Heli, tell focused dramatic stories from inside Mexico. One of this year's best documentaries, Cartel Land, even takes us behind the curtain of The Knights Templar, one of the most dangerous cartels operating right now. What's most compelling about these gangs, cinematically, is the brutality of the violence. And Sicario is full of it. But what makes the film great is the overwhelming feeling of despair it instills. In an unwinnable war, it's the story of the people on the ground, trying to make a difference however they can and how that willingness can both fulfill and corrupt, and sometimes both.
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