Thursday, 24 September 2015

Review: Sicario

World of Blackout Film Review

Sicario Poster

Cert: 15 / 121 mins / Dir. Denis Villeneuve / Trailer
WoB Rating: 6/7

Apparently the best thing about being an FBI operative is that the riot-gloves they issue you with are so sensitive that you can feel a man's pulse (or lack thereof) though them while you've got the adrenaline pumping through you that you'd get if that man had just shot at you and you'd just blown his spine all over the wall in return. Or so it would appear, anyway.

Following a successful if slightly naive Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) through her recruitment into a CIA black-ops unit to eliminate a Mexican drug baron, Sicario is a tight, grim and moody thriller of a film, but one which never wallows in its despair. Realism, rather than pessimism, is the order of the day as Macer struggles with both the legal and moral loopholes used to tighten a net which is, even she has to admit, for the greater good. As much about the trust issues as it is the dead bodies, the film features the visual aesthetic of Marshland and the philosophical bent of Zero Dark Thirty.

Director Denis Villeneuve is unrepentant in his stark amorality, and cinematographer Roger Deakins' camera pays as much attention to the gorgeous aerial photography and horizon-sunsets as it does the festering corpses who are collateral damage in the story. This film is beautiful for all the right and wrong reasons. Although it's tonally dark, the film never feels exploitative, and even the most blasé killings are carried out with the characters' sense of moral or poetic duty, rather than the dynamic glee which would have come from many other directors.

The film uses a documentary style to immerse the audience, but a sparse script to make them pay attention; the story never strays from the linear path, but you're not spoon-fed the plot either. Jóhann Jóhannsson's accompanying score is percussive and abstract rather than outright musical, and often combines with the camerawork to make the film feel like a first-person-shooter game*1, particularly during the climactic scene where the photography slips exclusively between infra-red and thermal imaging. Sicario may not always be fluid storytelling, but it's astounding film-making…

But best of all, I love how the Mexican-Spanish for "…on the buses" is (verbally - in this film) "…on the buses". That's going to make sitcom programme-scheduling a hell of a lot easier…

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
I think it is, but I also know that the film won't be for everyone, despite how much I've just gushed over it.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
A rental, then buy it when it comes down to a fiver.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro are fantastic; Josh Brolin coasts a little, but to be fair that's also how his character's written.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does, indeed.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not particularly.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Well, the Benicio Del Toro / Episode VIII situation is still in 'heavy-rumour' mode, so rather than rely on that direct link, I'll just drop these here.
Sicario stars…

• Emily Blunt, who appeared in Salmon Fishing In The Yemen alongside Ewan 'Kenobi' McGregor.
• Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, who appeared in Guardians Of The Galaxy with Peter 'Darth Maul' Serafinowicz.
• Jon Bernthal, who appeared in Fury with Jason 'Inquisitor' Isaacs
• Daniel Kaluuya, who appeared in the Doctor Who episode Planet of the Dead alongside David 'Huyang' Tennant.
• Victor Garber, who appeared in Big Game with Sam 'Windu' Jackson.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 And I mean that in the best possible sense, a great film feeling like a great game; it's incredibly rare to get that crossover. The vast majority of game-to-movie adaptations manage to miss it completely…

*2 (hello to Jason Isaacs)

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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