One of the most nail-biting crime thrillers in recent years with award-worthy performances
Directed by Denis Villeneuve who did the gripping Prisoners (2013) and the Oscar-nominated Incendies (2010), Sicario is packed with high level of nail-biting suspense that could keep audiences at the edge of their seats for the entire film. Its moral-conflicting plot of a cartel-pursuit may not be too unfamiliar, but it offers great sophistication as the film explores the grey areas and ethics of unlawful covert operations against criminals.
The narrative of the film mostly follows Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), an FBI agent who’s handpicked to join a male-dominated elite task force approved by the government in a highly secretive and dangerous mission to take down a murderous drug lord. The team is led by Matt (Josh Brolin) who gives her practically zero information on their objectives and what exactly the plans are in achieving them, but she has to tag along in everything they do, even when they enter the hostile areas in Mexico that’s out of US jurisdiction. Besides the “all-star” force from both the US and Mexico, the team also includes a mysterious Columbian by the name of Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) who claims to be a former prosecutor but is seemingly experienced with combat and off-camera interrogations.
The entire first act is extremely intense, like something is going to happen in every scene. The film has respectable realism with gritty action. And through the point of view of Kate, I could genuinely feel the nerve-racking anxiety and frustrations that she experiences. The character certainly resembles the likes of Maya (Zero Dark Thirty) and Clarice Sterling (The Silence of the Lambs) — idealistic heroins who’re capable, tough and yet nervy. Thankfully, Kate’s rather annoyingly strict ethics is only a subtle focus of the film.
The performances by Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt (Into the Woods, Edge of Tomorrow) and Benicio del Toro here are truly award nomination-worthy. Many may recognise the latter as The Collector in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but not many would know that the Puerto Rican actor was an Oscar and a Golden Globe award winner for his supporting role in Traffic (2010). On top of mystery and constant suspicion, del Toro’s portrayal also strikes fear. His character can appear to be weary by default, and then when need be, he becomes this terrifying bad-ass. As for one-time Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice, Milk) who’s also in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as Thanos), he did a very good job adding another layer to the mystery by being the talkative but vague, the sandal-wearing, self-amusing task force leader
The second act is slower to serve as buildup towards the eruption of Kate’s curiosity and moral conflicts. The exposition remains to be tight-lipped, keeping the plot compelling. As the opening explains, Sicario means ‘hitman’ in other languages, which is a huge hint, along with a line that Alejandro says to Kate at the beginning, that there’s going to be a big reveal at the end. The twist isn’t as shocking or surprising as I was hoping it to be, but one of the final scenes is, and it’s a brutally powerful one.
Apart from brilliant performances and direction, the film wouldn’t have been such a masterfully crafted piece if it wasn’t also blessed with a good script (by first-time writer Taylor Sheridan), disturbing sets, suspenseful music (Johann Johannsson), and top class cinematography (Roger Deakins) and editing (Joe Walker) as well. Sicario is one thrilling anti-police procedural that all fans of the genre must not miss.
What I would’ve named the film: “Bitch Got Used”
Malaysia censorship: At the press screening, only the sex scene was obviously cut. The F-bombs weren’t muted. However, I heard that this was actually the uncensored version and the one for public would have two scenes censored. I’m still confused now but maybe what they meant was that this was the international version. Or perhaps the one I saw was already the censored version. Whatever it was, it wasn’t too graphically violent compared to other films that were more violent and were released to public uncensored. Where’s painful gore, yo?
Second opinion: My girlfriend said that this isn’t her type of movie hence she was easily distracted by her phone throughout the screening. A strong sign that this film isn’t for everyone.
Verdict: Highly intense, gritty, compelling and to some, it may be shocking as well.
Rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Crime thriller
Running Time: 121 minutes
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Screenwriter: Taylor Sheridan
Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández
Malaysia Release Date: 17 September 2015
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: Black Label Media, Thunder Road Pictures