Sicario is an excellent film that’s not for me. It’s a fantastic piece of direction and a solid bit of storytelling in a genre and world that I don’t find compelling. For whatever reason, crime stories committed to film fail to fascinate me. I think the spectacle is too overwhelming to me. I’d much rather watch something quiet or pensive, or something that ratchets up the intensity to the level of the horror genre.
However, Sicario knows how to deal in the crime spectacle with style. A lot of props must be given to director Denis Villeneuve and editor Joe Walker along with the superb sound editing team. They know how to pace a scene just right. They take in the moment, let it marinate, build the suspense and then, just when you think it’s safe, they hit you with the action. It makes for a lot of moments that are more shocking than exciting.
Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a SWAT officer in Arizona who’s called on to a federal investigation into the Mexican drug cartel’s smuggling operation The operation is led by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) that quickly begins cutting corners and breaking jurisdiction. The wild card thrown into this is Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), a man with a history in the drug trade who goes from calm and in control to an unstoppable tornado of rage.
About halfway in, it becomes clear how all the dominos are going to fall and it’s all an exercise in fatalism. I always appreciate stories where the main character is powerless in the face of this large, complex web of evil and must decide on what hill to live or die. It’s more honest to the complexities of real life, but it does make the last act a bit less entertaining than the previous two acts.
I’m excited to see what this team will do in the sci-fi genre with Arrival. Denis Villeneuve has a good eye for taking in the world and I could easily see him making a sci-fi film filled with a sense of the grandiose, which is something modern sci-fi seems to have lost outside of Spielberg’s work.
© 2016 James Blake Ewing