If you’ve ever seen any of Denis Villeneuve’s previous work, doppelgänger drama Enemy or, most likely, Prisoners with Hugh Jackman, you’ll know that the director doesn’t often provide black and white conclusions when it comes to morality, with protagonists often stepping into the shadows. So we couldn’t think of many better candidates to take on the murky waters of narcotics in thriller Sicario.

Sicario Film Review

The plot for Sicario sees FBI kidnap-response specialist Kate Macer, played by the always brilliant Emily Blunt, begin work with two shady ‘Department of Defense advisers’, played by Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro, as she finds herself on a morally blurred new front in America’s War On Drugs.

One of Sicario’s greatest achievements is the brutal honesty in which it deals with the subject matter. While it’s, for all intents and purposes, entirely fictional, you can’t help but feel it’s steeped in first-hand accounts and bags of research. While that naturally means it often lacks answers, it more than makes up for it with pertinent questions that will leave you wondering what is right and wrong.

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Sicario may feel like a gruelling examination at times but don’t let that put you off. Make no mistake, this is a genuinely brilliant thriller. ‘Sicario’ means ‘hitman’ in Spanish, so it should come as no great surprise that the US/Mexican border roaming results in plenty of tension-filled violence with shoot-outs, interrogations and some of the most brutal assassinations you’re likely to see on screen.

The script itself can sometimes stray into cliché with exclamations like, “This is a land of wolves now.” But first-time screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sons Of Anarchy’s Deputy Chief Hale) can easily be forgiven as the story meanders along seamlessly and his characters are so excellently realised. He also has Blunt and del Toro to thank as they both deliver complexly nuanced performances. Kate’s unwavering determination fades into the painful realisation of inevitability, while del Toro somehow attracts empathy to the Alejandro character where none should really be given – he’s almost like a rabid dog on his last legs. Brolin is also strong here and provides some much needed light comic relief at times.

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While del Toro and Blunt should really be in the running come award season, this film belongs to Villeneuve and his 12-time nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins. Deakins has amazingly never won an Oscar despite incredible work on No Country for Old Men and The Shawshank Redemption, in particular. For us, he should walk it this year with some pictures that will truly stick in the memory. One especially – a shot of the desert sunset in the twilight with Delta Force soldiers sinking one by one into the razor-straight shadow borders beneath – in captures the film’s dinginess, beauty and brutality. Our description cannot possibly do it justice but believe us, this one will stay with us for a while.

A special nod should also go for the soundtrack which ploughs right through you without leaving a mark. Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score rumbles along to the pace of the chase and does what all good soundtracks do, keeps you close to the edge of comfort – a notion which couldn’t be apt for Sicario.

From the gruesome opening scene of Sicario, you know you’re in for something special. It pulls no punches but deals with them so expertly, you’re not really sure who or where they’re aimed. Sicario is a stunningly dark thriller and, for us, it’s one of the best films we’ve seen this year.

Our Rating: 5 Stars

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