There is something to be said about sepia tones and using them to evoke mood and timelessness.
When I was an art student I experimented with limited palettes on the regular, and I discovered that it was in those moments of restriction that I could be more free with other elements of my art.
For instance, my markmaking would often become more varied, deliberate and nuanced, and so something that appeared simple on the surface would pull in the viewer quite easily.
How quaint that this week’s review does this on both the poster and in the film.
Cast: Bernardo P. Sacarino, Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Maximiliano Hernandez, Victor Garber, Daniel Kaluuya
Director: Denis Villeneuve
released on blu-ray January 5, 2016
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Audience Score 87%
The Guardian: *****/*****
Denis Villeneuve is a hot topic in the filmmaking industry. He kind of exploded on the scene in the past five years, though he has been making movies for almost two decades. But he is pretty selective with his choices.
After he was nominated for an academy award for the foreign film Incendies in 2011, he started getting high level projects like Prisoners and Enemy. Both of which I’ve seen, own, and love. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn he was behind Sicario and that he will be making the Blade Runner sequel which is currently pre-production.
Let’s cover a bit of this plot off, shall we?
In the opening shot, we read text explaining that “sicario” comes from Roman zealots that occupied Palestine. In Mexico, it translates “hitman”.
SWAT are taking a house in Arizona to retrieve potential hostages from a Mexican drug cartel led by Manuel Diaz (Bernardo P. Sacarino). Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya) are part of an FBI rescue squad. Upon seizing the house, they uncover dozens of bodies inside the walls, just before a bomb goes off in the garden shed, killing members of the team.
Back at the office, Kate is introduced to Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) a special agent who invites her to join him and a “consultant” named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) in taking down the cartel.
We move to Mexico, and see a man named Silvio (Maximiliano Hernandez) talk with his son and get ready for work as a police officer.
Kate assumes the team is headed to El Paso, but they are actually going to Juarez to procure a prisoner with Delta Force soldiers and head back to the border immediately. While stuck in the customs parkway Alejandro notices gang members and the team is advised to act only if the criminals do. One man gets out so the team moves on all cars. The officers attempt to subdue each vehicle but it ends in a shootout with the gang dead.
Back at the station, Kate gets into an argument with Matt about the mission and they way it is going. She has started smoking again.
After Alejandro tortures the prison, a gang leader, the team head to El Paso to question buses filled with immigrants. They expect to learn about a secret tunnel for border crossing.
Next, they visit a bank where it is assumed a woman deposits money for the drug cartels. They arrest her and discover money wrapped in blueish bands. The bank manager explains that the cartels are repaying loans, which are not tracked.
Kate and Reggie go out for drinks that night and Reggie introduces her to his friend Ted (Jon Bernthal), a local cop who is out too. Kate and Ted leave together, and are about to have sex when she sees him remove a wristband similar to what they found earlier. They get into a fight and Kate reaches for her gun. But Ted gets the upper hand and almost strangles her until Alejandro walks in and points his gun in Ted’s face, and eventually threatening him to get more information about who he works for.
Pros: The brutality of what both the Americans and Mexicans are willing to do drives this story. The fact that the visuals are amazing and dialogue tight helps immensely in this regard. Emily Blunt has resoundingly proved she can handle drama and maintain her cool while doing it.
Cons: This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a violent movie about drug trafficking. Also because the movie is exploring issues of crossing moral lines, the characters become rather one-dimensional as a result.
Runtime: 121 minutes
Points of Interest: Benicio Del Toro originally had more lines but Villeneuve decided to strip him down to maintain his mystery. Emily Blunt started this project just 4 months after giving birth to her daughter.
Ever a sucker for excellent visuals and a story which explores interesting themes, this movie had me at hello. It also helps that heavy hitters Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin helped back the story. And did I mention Emily Blunt is one of my favorite actors?
If you have ever made art before you should seriously consider trying this practice of reducing your options. Whether it is material choices, removing colour or focusing on particular shapes, it will allow you to explore other concepts more readily.
Sicario is an excellent example of this type of filmmaking, and while it isn’t perfect in it’s execution (bad word choice?), it does an amazing job of showcasing the harsh realities of tough moral decisions.
But what do you think? Is this just another drug trafficking flick? I’ll see you tomorrow evening dear readers, with some wisdom.