As the weather grows more and more bitter, we see the irony take shape as the best films come out to reveal themselves. October has kicked off with some good film openings, but the one I’m immediately recommending is Denis Villeneuve’s latest nail biter Sicario. Tension and strong characters go hand and hand with Villeneuve’s directing style and his career has shown he has no need to get out of that wheelhouse as he already has films like Enemy and Prisoners under his belt with a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner on the way. Villeneuve is a director we will get to know about sooner than later, but for now, we get to experience a cast that shines even through the dimly lit streets of Arizona and Mexico in this crime thriller.
Unless you speak Spanish, you are likely to not know what the title even is or what it means, but without spoiling it here, the film wastes no time in telling you what this film is all about. There isn’t a scene in the film that doesn’t have importance and that proves the sheer direction the story was always going to go with it’s characters. We meet Emily Blunt as Kate Macey, an idealistic FBI agent who has proven to be successful in her ventures in stopping the murders and crime around the Arizona borders, but only for the crimes to be like the heads of a hydra proving she hasn’t wounded the beast that is the murder of innocent people.
There is something about both the music and the set ups of nearly all the scenes that make you tense your jaw like a crocodile. What Sicario is will warrant you to all wear a mouth guard and some antidepressants, but the kinetic pacing of the film doesn’t allow you time to bite all the way down. Corruption looms on those who so desperately desire order and that is ever present in this film as Josh Brolin and scene stealer Benicio del Toro. These two seem to pop up in so many films and you can’t help but gravitate to whatever it is they have. Brolin continues to be the guy we love to hate because he plays a cocky prick so well while del Toro proves to audiences once again that he is one of the best working in Hollywood.
With realistic violence, but not gratuitous in nature, the somber painting of Juarez Mexico would make even Edgar Allen Poe shutter is disgust and fear. The drug trade and murder of innocent legal or illegal immigrants shines a light on the problems and concerns people in America have had for years and the film does this without you even realizing it. The imagery at some points makes you think you paid money to see a horror film rather than a crime thriller, but it is all the more effective as Blunt gives a strong, but vulnerable performance. Make no mistake, this is still a Villeneuve film and that means you best pay attention to the details, but that’s all I am saying.
Thankfully, we are given a film that is not overly complex, but isn’t so dim minded that you feel like you watched Dora the Explorer for two hours. It’s smartly written, excellently executed, and shot by the great Roger Deakins which lets you know that the film will be gorgeous aesthetically. One of the highlights of the film is a scene where a group of the “enforcers” we will call them without spoiling anything, go into a tunnel in the middle of the desert. Not only does it have one of the most perfectly shot horizon driven silhouettes reminiscent of a great war film, but it also proves to be a calm before a possible storm adding to the beautiful tension already constricting our hearts and hands.
If we are giving an updated list of favorite films this year, I am putting Sicario on that list. It is a perfect mixture of suspense, action, and intellect that you want in any movie all while telling so many perfectly depicted character arcs you are satisfied and begging for more. My only issues I can say that came up later were minor in nature. Characters tend to disappear by the third act of the film, but that goes with the changing of the story entirely which is forgivable if you add up the pieces and let them organically grow in time. Just think of this film’s tone like you’re watching Se7en but there is no soothing Morgan Freeman voice to comfort you in between.