Sicario Review

Sicario is a 2015 crime thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Taylor Sheridan. This is the third film in Villeneuve's big-budget filmography following Prisoners and Enemy.

Story
Emily Blunt plays an FBI agent who, after an op that produces a horrific find, agrees to accompany a mysterious task force to take down the Mexican crime boss responsible for what she found. Once she joins, she enters a world of deception spear headed by her field leader (Josh Brolin) and a mysterious "consultant" (Benicio Del Toro).

The set up is not the most original premise in the world. However, it does make for a lot of intense scenes. The pacing is really well handled in the movie in that its slow, but never boring. Every time there's a slow scene there's always buildup to something, but you never know what it's going to be. You're just left waiting to see what will happen next. This is what makes great tension.

The characters are ok for the most part, but the highlight is Benicio Del Toro's character. At the start of the film, he seems like the "character with a checkered past but a heart of gold" character type you've seen so many times. However, as the film goes on, he becomes completely unpredictable. There were a few things he did, especially towards the end of the film, that I didn't expect him to do at all. He's super interesting and intense to watch.

The screenplay is fine. They really do manage to capture how these characters would respond to the situations they're in, but there's nothing spectacular about it.

Technical
The lighting is fantastic. What really impresses me is how they were able to make the lighting look like natural light even though it probably wasn't, especially at night. A lot of times in movies at night, the characters' faces are always visible for some reason and it never truly looks like night time. However, in this movie, it looks like natural darkness; some times you can't even see the characters' faces because you wouldn't be able to at night. They also do a good job with the daylight as well. I've always thought that daylight in movies didn't look quite natural, but here everything is lit to look like it would look in the day time. Same with all of the interior lighting as well. Everything appears to be lit exclusively by the lights in the room, which means that whatever lights they have in the room everything is lit in the same color as the light. It really does need to be seen to be appreciated.

What I found interesting about the cinematography for at least the first third of this movie is how the director would use POV shots during conversations. Whenever two people were talking to each other, we'd always see the character who's speaking from the perspective of the character they're speaking to. Then, once we get to Juarez, Mexico, we see everything from the perspective of Emily Blunt's character. When two people are talking in front of her in a car, we don't see their full faces like in a normal shot/reverse shot conversation. Instead, we just see the backs and sides of their heads, because that's all Blunt can see. It really made you feel like you were actually seeing things from her perspective.

The set and costume design were obviously made with the other in mind. The colors all blend in with each other really well. There are lots of greys and whites and khaki colors and even when there is color, it's very muted, such as extremely soft blues.

I was impressed by the director's choice to use silence rather than music for a lot of scenes in this movie. Normally, in an intense scene a director would choose to put intense music over the whole thing, trying to make the audience feel scared or tense. In this film, Villeneuve is smart enough to let the moments sell themselves through absolute silence. This makes the moment seem more real and causes the audience to pay more attention to what's going on and what's going to happen.

The acting is top notch from the three main leads. I was particularly impressed by Emily Blunt's flawless American accent, something that's harder to pull off than you might think. However, Benicio Del Toro is the highlight, once again. He completely slips into the role of a single-minded killer who has no compassion or mercy.

Summary: This is one of the most well made movies of the past couple of years. Great cinematography, expertly handled tension and fantastic performances make this an interesting movie to watch, if not the most original.

B+

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