Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sicario Review

Two years ago there was an absolute gem of a movie that came out called Prisoners. It was a very dark, unhappy crime drama about a guy whose daughter gets kidnapped by a psychopath. The guy then takes matters into his own hands when he sees that the police aren't doing their job like he thinks they should. For some reason, I never actually wrote a review of the movie. What's more mysterious, though, was my exclusion of the movie from my list of favorite movies from that year. I think I was caught up on the ending after first viewing it or something like that. Anywho, it was one of the best movies from 2013 and thus now fast-forwarding again to this year, when I saw the advertising of another movie that was from the director of Prisoners, starred Oscar-nominated actors Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Torro as well as future Oscar-nominated actress Emily Blunt (she's becoming overdue now), and came out around the same time of year as Prisoners, I was totally down. I didn't quite see it as early as I wanted to, but I'm now making up for that. If you haven't seen Sicario either, then I highly recommend you doing so.

Sicario in Mexico means "hitman." I don't speak Spanish. I've never been to Mexico. That's just what the movie told me in the beginning. It also told a brief history of the word, which I found fascinating, but can't quote to you because I don't remember. That introduction was a good setup for this movie, which is a very dark and gritty look at the war on the Mexican drug cartel. The movie starts out with Emily Blunt as an FBI agent who is part of this group that invades this house not too far away from the Mexican border. We're somewhere in Arizona, I believe. They go into this house and holy fetch do they find disgusting things. Everyone is horrified and throwing up, so they decide to investigate further when suddenly "boom goes the dynamite!" Whether or not that is literal or figurative is something that I won't say. I'll be using that phrase interchangeable without telling you which it means for the sake of being vague. Point is, disgusting things are found, a surprising thing happens, and suddenly Emily Blunt is being recruiting for some sort of team to go solve a certain issue at the heart of the problem, which requires searching for a very bad man down in Mexico.

This is actually a very slow-moving movie. Given the subject matter, I thought we were going to speed up quite a bit and get very action-packed and intense in the second half of the movie. Not quite. Intense, yes. But intense in a different way. This is a movie that builds and builds throughout the whole movie. Yes, it's slow-moving, but it's not a bad slow-moving. It's a very good slow-moving movie. We start out with quite the jarring opening scene that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Then when we start our actual journey, we start out with a little bit of tension. Something feels off, but we don't quite know what. Then we see some disturbing images as we go that add a little more tension to the movie. Then Emily Blunt's character starts to realize that she's gotten herself into something that she didn't really sign up for her, but there's not really any going back. As her character gets more uncomfortable, we as an audience get more uncomfortable and thus even more tension is added. Then we get the sporadic, random moments where a "boom goes the dynamite!" moment gets thrown in which adds even more tension. You get the feeling that this is leading to something big and when that thing happens, the suspension and tension has built up so perfectly that I had a jaw-dropping experience at the end of this movie.

There's almost nothing more satisfying in film for me personally than a thriller where the tension is built up perfectly and that tension leads to a very rewarding finale. This is exactly what happens in this movie and there's several aspects of the movie that really make it work. The first is the acting. There's plenty of side characters in the movie that all do a good job, but I'm going to focus on our three main characters played by Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Torro. First up is Emily Blunt. When we have a dark thriller like this, the typical human reaction is to want there to be at least one good character that we can latch onto and care about. If everyone in the movie is a horrible, despicable human being, we often panic mentally because there is no one to latch onto or care about. If done right, this can still work out very well, but it's a lot harder to pull off. This is not something we have to worry about, though, because Emily Blunt is the character that we get to latch onto and dang is this woman good in this movie. She is a name that I've known for some time now, but she really caught my attention in last year's Edge of Tomorrow and followed that up fantastically after her role in Into the Woods, which I think was Oscar-worthy. Now she's stepped up her game even more with Sicario and is officially a force to be reckoned with as she's now become one of my favorite actresses. She does a fantastic job in this of making us feel really bad for her as she is essentially an innocent victim caught up in a disgusting situation.

Then there's the other two. Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Torro. Most people are saying that Benicio Del Torro is the big attraction here while Josh Brolin doesn't really stand out. I half agree with that. Benicio Del Torro is definitely the big takeaway from this film, but I liked both of our Marvel baddies (Brolin plays Thanos and Del Torro is the Collector - both appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy and both will feature prominently in future Marvel films). Brolin is essentially the one who recruits Emily Blunt and is "explaining" to her what is going on. At first you think he's just fine. No one to worry about. But it doesn't take long before you realize that something is up and that's he's actually a fairly sketchy, yet interesting character. But then there's Del Torro. Yes, he is absolutely fantastic. At first he's just really mysterious. Unlike Brolin, you immediately know that something is off with him, but he's very quiet and subdued for much of the movie. Then as we move further along into the movie, we dive deeper and deeper into his character. I'm not going to spoil anything, but needless to say, the second half of the movie is the Benicio Del Torro show. Yes, I love Emily. Yes, I would love for her to get her first Oscar nomination with this movie. But if I could only pick one person to nominate from this movie, Del Torro is my choice and once you've seen this movie, you'll most likely agree with me.

There's two other aspects of this movie that really make it work. Yes, we have a really interesting, realistic, dark story that is fascinating. Yes, we have a trio of actors who knock it out of the park. But this movie wouldn't have worked without the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson. In the musical world, this man is also becoming a force to be reckoned with. He got his first Oscar nomination last year for his beautiful score in The Theory of Everything. He's also responsible for the score from Prisoners, so he seems to be following director Denis Villeneuve around as he'll also be doing the score for Villeneuve's film for next year. But these are three amazing scores that this man had done that I think will lead to more and more projects for him in the future. The other aspect that really made this movie work was the absolutely amazing cinematography work done by the master himself, Roger Deakins. There's a reason why this this man has been nominated for 12 Oscars, 7 of those nominations coming in the last 8 years. Every movie he does is beyond beautiful and it's a darn shame that he's come up blank 12 times now at the Oscars. Give that man his Oscar! Come on Academy! I'm not one for lifetime achievement awards, but this wouldn't be one of those. He deserves a win because he is the best in the business and Sicario is of course no different.

Overall, this isn't a movie I can actually recommend for everyone. It's very dark, gritty, and disturbing at times and thus is not for everyone. But man is this a work of art that paints a beautiful, realistic picture of what the drug cartel can be like. It's shady and it's evil and sometimes drastic measures are taken by people to try and stop it. Sometimes that works out and sometimes that doesn't. This is not an action-packed, entertaining movie like some other movies about the drug cartel. This is a slow-moving, dark thriller where the suspense is built up perfectly. Helping add to the movie's brilliance is a great trio of acting led by the mysterious and deep character played by Benicio Del Torro. The movie also has an absolutely brilliant score by Jóhann Jóhannsson and is also one of Roger Deakins' best cinematographic pieces to date. I hope Oscar nominations are coming this movie's way, but if not you can at least be assured that the movie is very well done and worth seeing if this is the type of movie you like seeing. Director Denis Villeneuve blew me away with Prisoners and blew me away again with Sicario, so he is definitely on my radar as far as directors to watch out for. My grade for Sicario is a 9/10.

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