The drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.
Benicio Del Toro,
When drug violence worsens on the USA Mexico border, the FBI sends an idealistic agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) on a mission to eradicate a drug cartel responsible for a bomb that had killed members of her team.Written by
The thermal vision shots were filmed with a FLIR SC8300 thermal vision camera; they were not added in post-production. See more »
Towards the beginning of the film (at around 26 mins) we see the convoy driving to Ciudad Juárez on the highway. In the reflection of the last car one can see the Russian Arm used to film the vehicles. See more »
Are we going to Tucson?
Yeah, you gotta learn how to sleep on a plane. They let me on the base when you need a ride, don't they?
[to Kate as they approach]
I didn't ask you.
And yet I answered...
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Splendid in all technical aspects. Slightly flawed fundamentals prevent Sicario from reaching that next level.
The wait is over. Since the trailer came out, I watched it several times a week. That's how hyped up I was. I finally got to watch Sicario, Denis Villeneuve's latest film. It got a very positive reception at the Cannes festival, and got tons of praise from movie critics worldwide.
My very first recommendation to anyone interested in watching this film is to not watch the trailer, or don't watch it repeatedly like I did. Although it's incredibly exciting, it gives way too much away. Sicario basically consists of approximately 6-7 set-pieces. The trailer shows key moments from all the set-pieces, and leaves you knowing almost just as much about the story as you'll get to know watching the actual film.
Sicario features a pretty thin storyline, but to its defence, it's all part of a tactical approach at keeping things blurry, shady, and mysterious to the audience. Metaphorically, these mechanisms serve the story pretty well, as we watch official government agencies use unorthodox methods and people in this bloody war against the cartels, and the intent is to offer a glimpse at an ongoing situation and let the viewer's imagination fill in the blanks.
That came off as a bit of an odd artistic choice to me, as, in recent years, several films and TV shows have thoroughly explored all the horrors resulting from the war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico. It's not exactly a brand new subject matter to worldwide audiences. My point, basically, is that it's an odd timing to choose such a broad approach to a subject that has become familiar to the masses. When my imagination had to fill in the blanks, it basically did it with memories of other films and TV shows exploiting the very same subject matter, and that dug deeper into it.
All the technical aspects of Sicario are off the charts. Denis Villeneuve's directing is spectacular. The sequence with the convoy of SUVs in Juarez has to rank among the most beautifully shot scenes that we have seen in a while, with a combination of breath-taking shots of Mexican landscapes, Juarez and its streets, incredible tension building up inside the vehicles, and how the different characters handle it. Roger Deakin's cinematography is flawless, as expected. Whether portraying a dry, sunny afternoon in Arizona or a nightly tactical operation with agents wearing night vision goggles, Deakins' contribution shines in every possible way. The same can be said about the soundtrack and the editing.
One thing that truly surprised me is how Sicario makes its point. It is intended to leave you with an overall impression on a global situation (the border war, the cartels, the way government agencies operate, etc.), and the actual story and characters become purposely subsidiary in that depiction of a broader picture. This is just another day in this war, just another set of dirty tactics, just another escalation of violence, just another dozen of people among thousands doing shady things in this mess of a war on drugs.
And if there is one flaw to this film, that's where it lies, in my humble opinion. Characters and storyline are fundamentals. Without saying that these two aspects were neglected, I feel like this is where Villeneuve's film could have reached that next level, but unfortunately didn't, by keeping everything so vague, and so volatile.
I'm not going to sugar coat it: Emily Blunt's character is one-dimensional. Her performance is good, but the character has a very simple purpose in the whole picture, and it never goes beyond that. Some secondary characters get enough screen time to let you think that they'll eventually have a true impact on the story, or be part of some sub-plot. Here again, some minor disappointments as a result. Again, it's part of a mechanism to make everyone look like a tiny dot in the big picture, but prevented me from being truly compelled by the story unfolding and most of the characters that were part of it.
Josh Brolin's and Benicio Del Toro's performances are both amazing, though. Again, you do not get to know a lot about them. That being said, the few times when you get to see more than just what's on the surface, you'll get enough hints to partly understand their true nature. But again, you'll notice that I had to use the word "partly", especially when it comes to Brolin's character. A lot is left unexplained. And while this opens up a world of possibilities where speculations get darker by the minute, I was left wanting to know more when the credits started rolling.
Overall, Sicario succeeded in leaving me feeling deceived, just like I was an extension of Kate Macer. The way it operates is quite unique, as a lot of unexplained details, characters, and events leave the viewer speculating in an environment filled with lies, shadiness, and broken ideals. The visuals and the soundtrack will blow you away. Also, the final scene was a perfect way to seal the deal, and goes perfectly in line with the "big picture" approach that this film takes.
Overall, a very entertaining drama/thriller, full of technical brilliance, and some slightly flawed fundamentals. Definitely worth a watch.
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