Thursday, October 1, 2015

Movie Review #318: "Sicario" (2015)

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Director: Denis Villeneuve
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minutes

FBI agent Kate Macer is recruited to a special task force headed by Matt Graver, who supposedly works for the Department of Justice. She knows they are investigating members of the Juarez drug cartel, but is kept in the dark about the details of their mission. As their mission gets closer to completion, she starts to wonder if she signed up for more than she bargained for. 

Holy tension, Batman!

"Sicario" is a movie that was screened at some film festivals before getting rolled out slowly into theaters nationwide. There has been a ton of buzz around the film and wow, it certainly deserves it. Kate Macer, played incredibly by the brilliant Emily Blunt, is a by-the-book FBI agent who is idealistic and simply wants to get the bad guys. As the film starts, her and her team raid a house in Arizona and uncover, almost by accident, what is essentially a graveyard of bodies hidden within the walls of the house. This very first scene sets the tone for what's about to come in the rest of the film. It is this discovery that gets Kate invited to join a special task force investigating the Juarez drug cartel. It is the Juarez cartel that is responsible for all the bodies she and her team discovered within the walls of the home in Arizona. Of course, Kate is very interested in bringing down those responsible for the deaths and so many others, so she volunteers to join the task force. She isn't exactly sure what the mission is, and Matt Graver, played by Josh Brolin, the man who heads the mission, isn't exactly going to tell her. There is a lot of secrecy going on, and neither us as the audience nor Kate as a character are exactly sure of what's going to happen. When Kate leaves for the mission, she meets a man named Alejandro, played by Benicio del Toro, who is working with Graver, but we know very little about him, only that Kate is to do exactly as he says. We find out that Kate, Graver, and Alejandro, with the help of a Delta force team, are picking up the brother of a high ranking cartel member Kate thinks is in El Paso, but as it turns out, they are actually crossing unauthorized over the border into Juarez to get him. For those who may not know, at one point in history, Juarez was the most violent city in the entire world, recording over 3,500 homicides in 2010. Since then, the rate has dropped down to about 538 homicides in 2014, which is just over one a day, so go ahead and feel free taking evening strolls through the city now.

We weren't kidding when we said there was an extreme amount of tension in "Sicario." From beginning to end, the things going on here provide for more than their fair share of moments where we needed to hold our breath for an extreme amount of time, exhaling and inhaling with rapidity the longer the film progressed. It has the edge-of-your-seat feeling we crave as moviegoers, and even though we were watching a movie with a realistic plot about drug cartels as opposed to something about space or robots, we were immersed and completely enthralled by what might happen next and where the story was going. While our eyes were widened in anticipation, it didn't escape us that we were watching one of the best films of 2015. The acting is fabulous all around, starting with Emily Blunt. Blunt has become a powerhouse actress in recent years and she has proven her worth as a versatile, excellent, fierce star. The best part? Her range. Within the blink of an eye, her character Kate goes from completely stone-faced and strong to visibly nervous and fragile, but never falters as sweat beads begin to grace her brows. She never completely unravels, but her tough-as-nails exterior begins to crumble by the film's end. Blunt has never been better, but we have a suspicion she will continue to reach for the stars in her career. Benicio del Toro is equally as amazing, channeling back to the part that won him an Oscar statue oh so many years ago. He is a mysterious and intimidating character to be sure, never revealing his true intentions or showing his hand. He and Blunt share some scary good scenes together. Even Josh Brolin is very good in this movie as he has an undeniable and cocky charisma about him.

"Sicario" stews in its despondency and we loved every single second of it. It is extremely well paced and is beautifully shot from a cinematographic standpoint. Overhead lingering shots of mountainous landscapes, visual shifts from normal camerawork to night vision and infrared, all of these pieces come together to make an intricate technical puzzle that pays off handsomely in its final product. An epic, ominous, foreboding score sets the stage for a dark, dismal yet riveting film wrought with suspenseful drama, blatant immorality, questionable doings, and a high body count. As with most movies of this nature, there is a delicate dance between what is right and what is legal, though sometimes what's being done for the greater good is wrong. It has more tension than I can recall from any movie we have seen recently and it's effective at every turn. Run, don't walk, to see this movie.

My Rating: 10/10
BigJ's Rating: 10/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~93%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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