Sicario is one of the best movies of 2015 thanks to the direction, cinematography and Del Toro’s brilliant performance which bizarrely was overlooked by the Academy. Beyond that, it’s just a well paced thriller that never lets up yet still some nice character moments.
Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Thriller
Lionsgate | R – 121 min. – $39.99 | January 5, 2016
Date Published: 01/18/2015 | Author: The Movieman
THE MOVIE – 4.5/5
Denis Villeneuve directed Prisoners, a bleak, haunting yet all around suspense-filled 2013 drama starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal and now he’s back and somehow managed to surpass it with Sicario. He also re-teams with cinematographer Roger Deakins who presents brilliant, gallery-worthy, photography/shots.
Note: This review contains SPOILERS pertaining to the plot. READER BEWARE!
The movie focuses primarily on Kate Macer (EMILY BLUNT), an idealistic (naïve) FBI Agent who, when the film opens, leads a unit on a raid of a home suspected of holding hostages. Upon entry, she nearly gets her head blown off with a shotgun but manages to duck and take out the shooter. The subsequent shot put a hole in the wall and the discovery of a body and when other walls were removed, crawl and attic spaces inspected, all told over 40 bodies were discovered. A shed outside is searched by two cops who trip a booby trap which explodes, killing the two of them and nearly taking out Kate’s partner, Reggie Wayne (DANIEL KALUUYA).
The aftermath finds Macer, at the recommendation of her boss, Dave Jennings (VICTOR GARBER), to work with a task force led by Matt Graver (JOSH BROLIN), a CIA spook working under the Department of Defense in charge of, with the help of members of elite Delta Force soldiers, relocating Guillermo Diaz, brother of one of the men responsible for the deaths of the bodies found in the house. Also part of the team is the mysterious Alejandro (BENICIO DEL TORO) who works with Matt in this endeavor.
Their mission takes them across the border to Juarez, Mexico, with the Mexican Federales serving as escorts through torched territory where gang fights run amok, the police are corrupt and even bodies, missing limbs, hang from bridges. They transfer Guillermo and after a brief tense moment, where gun-toting gangsters await, travel back to Arizona and Guillermo is taken to a holding cell to be, ahem, “interrogated” by Alejandro for information leading to the location of his brother, a hitman for the cartel, Manuel Diaz (BERNARDO SARACINO). This is all part of an elaborate plan to cause chaos in the drug trade which sets off more turmoil in the already volatile Juarez.
Sicario actually has a rather simple plot and there is a mild twist but the movie is more about the tension and, in large part, Kate and Alejandro, two characters with drastic different viewpoints of the world, one far more idealistic while the other is a pragmatist. Beyond that, Benicio Del Toro once again turns in a phenomenal performance, one that stunningly did not turn into an Oscar nomination further cementing in my mind, and I suspect the majority out there, the Academy’s irrelevance and continued deterioration.
For Emily Blunt, she isn’t bad though her character was a bit annoying as she’s far too naïve and frankly, a tad dumb in some of her decisions (such as confronting CIA spook Graver in the middle of the desert). That said, the character still has a purpose. Similarly, Josh Brolin seems to be stronger than ever, between this and Everest (and has Hail, Caesar! coming out soon), and he plays the CIA rep very well without going over-the-top.
The other standout is the direction by Denis Villeneuve in conjunction with Roger Deakins’ brilliant cinematography which showcases some utterly gritty yet beautiful photography. It’s something to behold and shows just what a talent Deakins is and how he can turn what, in simpler hands, could’ve been a simplistic story into something more grand and effective in its harrowing story and characters.
I don’t think Sicario is a perfect movie nor as expansive in scope as something like Traffic, which itself thrived on Soderbergh’s style, yet this film still sores with some solid performances, amazing direction and an overall haunting center that it makes it stand out from the rest.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
|This release comes with a matted slip cover. Inside is a standard DVD Copy and a redemption code for the Digital HD copy.
Stepping Into Darkness: The Visual Design of Sicario (16:46; HD) — This looks at the shooting locations, set designs, storyboards, director’s approach to filming, etc. There are interviews with Denis Villeneuve, Roger Deakins and others.
Blunt, Brolin & Benicio: Portraying the Characters of Sicario (14:35; HD) — We get to hear from the actors as the talk about the characters they play, the plot and what drew them to the roles.
A Pulse from the Desert: The Score of Sicario (6:19; HD) — Filmmakers and the composer, Johann Johannsson, talk about the approach to the unique score used in the film.
Battle Zone: The Origins of Sicario (13:45; HD) looks at how the script and all around story behind the movie came to be.
VIDEO – 4.75/5
|Lionsgate releases Sicario onto Blu-ray presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer (MPEG-4 AVC codec). As one would imagine, and expect, this looks brilliant thanks to Deakins’ visual eye, taking advantage of the aerial shots and the more visceral scenes such as the soldiers readying for a mission into the tunnels. Detail throughout is sharp and colors generally are bright while still keeping the darker, more gritty, undertone of the story. The transfer also is nice and clean, free of artifacts and aliasing, making for stark-looking black levels, though I did notice some minor amounts of banding, so there were some transition issues, however, they are minor.|
AUDIO – 5.0/5
|The film received the new(er) Dolby Atmos track, decoding to TrueHD 7.1 for older receivers, and unsurprisingly, it’s an incredible aural experience. This is a rather good movie to show off one’s system as there is a wide range from the quieter, dialogue-driven, moments, to some action-centric scenes which gives the track some amazing depth. Also, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score permeates the track with incredible force further intensifying the already suspense-filled film.|
OVERALL – 4.5/5
|Overall, Sicario is one of the best movies of 2015 thanks to the direction, cinematography and Del Toro’s brilliant performance which bizarrely was overlooked by the Academy. Beyond that, it’s just a well paced thriller that never lets up yet still some nice character moments. The Blu-ray released by Universal offers reference quality video and audio and an OK selection of bonus material, though a more comprehensive making-of, and audio commentary, would’ve helped.|
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.