New To Blu: Sicario

Sicario finally hits blu-ray today.

Live-action "Doom" 
isn't as fun as you think.

If ever there was a film that deserves a comparison with a boa constrictor, Sicario is it. Sitting through Denis Villeneuve's masterful, tension-laced thriller is to submit to the stranglehold of fate. Tighter and tighter is the grip, until eventually your breath is caught in your throat. The only sound is your pulse pounding in your ears. Your entire world has become this moment, this experience, and all you can do is look into the eye of oblivion. You could fight it, but it's pointless. The serpent has you, and he won't let you go.

Not since Steven Soderbergh gave us Traffic has the war on drugs seemed so futile. While that film gave us an expansive view of a criminal underworld with many plot threads dangling in the breeze, first-time screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Deputy Hale on Sons of Anarchy) keeps the story small, focusing our empathy through a strong central performance from Emily Blunt. With Looper and Edge of Tomorrow not far in the rear view mirror, Blunt shows that she not only has the chops, but the guts to match. She is the prism through which we see the corruption of a side of Mexico that is the stuff of living nightmares.

Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins visualize these horrors by alternating between intimate point of view shots and astonishing God's Eye photography. In those sky bound moments, we are as we are now: Above it all. Safe. But in Sicario, it only takes a millisecond for all hell to break loose, and Villeneuve makes sure we're all neck deep in the shit when it happens. There are the required gunfights and explosions, all very effective because they never strive for effect. Villeneuve choreographs his action so well that it never feels like an "action sequence," and instead comes at us with all the viscera of unscripted reality. Anything goes in this film. No punches are pulled, and they all connect to the gut like a sledgehammer. This is a town for wolves, and Villeneuve has some sharp teeth.

I think I can hit Trump's 
hairpiece from here.
Now let's take a moment and talk about the film's two most prolific supporting players: 

1) For the last few years, Benicio del Toro has been languishing on the back burner of the Marvel cinematic universe as the Collector. It's easy to forget that he can be downright terrific in the right role, and has an Oscar under his belt for this exact reason. With his work in Sicario, del Toro just might land his second. As with Hugh Jackman's criminally overlooked performance in Prisoners, Villeneuve's films continue to show his fascination with the darkness inside the hearts of men who are driven to do horrible things for the right reasons. Del Toro is the film's showstopper, and you can't take your eyes off him.

2) From the opening production logos, the score of Jóhann Jóhannson thunders just within the range of audibility, resonating like explosions in the distance. His use of low frequency percussion and synthesizers is truly brilliant here. The minimalist style matches perfectly with Villeneuve's methodic tone and pacing. The test of a truly great score is that you only notice it when it's necessary, and when the composer wants us to think of The Shining, it works. This score is like the train tracks that take you on a full tilt descent into hell.

There are simply too many great set pieces in Sicario to discuss. Individual scenes could be plucked at random and function on their own as vignettes. The tension percolates deep within every scene as Villeneuve expertly applies pressure to just the right nerves to keep us on edge. What this filmmaker has accomplished with just four movies is nothing short of remarkable. Prisoners and Enemy were two of the best films of their respective years. With Sicario, if Denis Villeneuve hasn't directed the best film of 2015, he has certainly proved one thing: He's the best and most gifted director to come out of Canada since David Cronenberg. 


- Blake O. Kleiner

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