When I walked out of Prisoners back in 2013, I knew I'd just witnessed something special. I knew right then that what I watched would go down as a classic some day. It's a film we'd be talking about years later. It's a film I still talk about today. Prisoners was a very special movie, and it really put director Denis Villeneuve on my radar. With Enemy last year, he proved himself once again. He's a director to be on the lookout for. With Sicario, out in hopefully a wide release on the 24th, Villeneuve may not reach the heights of his previous directorial efforts, but he's showing further evidence that he's a man we should be on the alert for.
Sicario opens with a raid on a house with potential hostages inside. Leading this raid is FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), a divorced woman with a dedication to her job, but a reluctance to do whatever it takes to close a case. She's by the book. When her raid collapses on her, she's approached to help follow up the case by travelling to the Mexico boarder under the command of a man named Matt (Josh Brolin). Wanting to do the right thing, she accepts, hoping to hunt down the men responsible. To do this, they get the assistance of Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), an expert in drug cartel related issues. As the three of them get further into the case, Kate begins to notice that she's not being told everything, raising several suspicions about the operation she's actually performing.
Emily Blunt has never been better when it comes to Sicario. She's absolutely phenomenal, not holding back when it comes to any of her lines, and it probably helps when Taylor Sheridan's screenplay is written as excellently as it is. Blunt's dedication to the role is noteworthy, hopefully enough to snatch an Oscar nomination next year. She deserves the recognition. Sicario is easily the greatest performance she's ever given. Blunt's career is really on the rise, and if she continues to deliver the goods, she could just end up being one of the finest female actresses currently working.
Her two lead co-stars, Del Toro and Brolin, are also top notch. I can't say for certain that this is both of their best performances, but it has to be close. It just has to be. For the entire first half, I honestly couldn't tell if I should trust them or not. Their performances were so natural that they managed to simultaneously gain my trust and lose it. Sure, when the second half kicks in I figured out who was what, but it's this first half that I really appreciate. As for their characters, Brolin's got nothing on Del Toro. His character is full of depth and humanity, and his back story made my mouth ajar. He's without a doubt the most interesting character in this entire film. Even more so than Blunt, who I would've liked to see get a bit more screen time in the final twenty minutes. The same goes with Brolin.
Not only can Villeneuve get Oscar-worthy performances out of his actors, but he's also excellent at creating an atmosphere, especially evident in the opening raid sequence. There's no better way to introduce characters than through action, and this opening scene does it the best. We're first introduced to Emily Blunt's character sitting in a van, breathing in deep breaths. Boom! Character depth already. What gives this film its atmosphere, in part, is the characters. We care for them, they have depth and they make this world feel vibrant.
Allowing such depth, especially just through the way these characters act, Villeneuve can go all out with the suspense. These characters are vulnerable, Kate in particular. I couldn't guarantee her safety. I had a suspicion of where everyone in this film stood, and yes, this suspicion did come true, but I couldn't guess their fates. I was clueless when it came to the actual outcome, and while it's not some big surprise or big shoot out, it works. The unfortunate thing about this ending, however, is that it doesn't feel quite like an ending. Things just happen, characters walk off and then the title fades in. It leaves you wanting more, and not in the same way that Prisoners did.
Twelve-time Oscar nominated cinematographer, Roger Deakens, has re-teamed up with Villeneuve to once again provide us with some beautiful cinematography. There is not one shot in this movie that I wouldn't consider absolutely gorgeous. From the way he lights the scene, to the way the camera moves, to the way he places certain objects and characters. Everything's gorgeous. Everything's perfect. Everything's planned. Nothing in this movie is without reason, and that's one of the things I adore about Villeneuve. One of the many, many things.
To sum up, Sicario doesn't quite reach the heights of Prisoners and Enemy, but with cinematography as gorgeous as this, performances as Oscar-worthy as this, and directing as mind blowing as this, it's safe to say we have a fabulous film on our hands.