Year: 2015
Production Co: Black Label Media
Studio: Lionsgate
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Cast: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Victor Garber, Jon Berthal

One of the most interesting things about American action movies or thrillers is how much of an insight you get into the way most their security agencies are seen in the zeitgeist of popular culture.

In films from The Siege to Syriana, The Bourne Identity and Enemy of the State, the FBI are portrayed as hard-working and upstanding while the CIA (and NSA in more recent years thanks to Snowden et al) are seen as slippery, amoral snakes who abuse the oversupply of resources they're given to operate outside the law.

That's one of the elements of Sicario I became fixated on because to be completely honest, I couldn't understand the universally breathless praise. It's a taut and effective action thriller, but the way critics were all going on I expected something transcendent.

The set pieces are indeed wonderfully shot and edited (look no further than the traffic jam), and there's a brutal nihilism a lot of films shy away from to chase broader audiences (the clinical dispatching of an entire family), but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being left slightly wanting.

Maybe the whole problem was that as I watched it on a plane I didn't get anywhere near the full experience of the sound design (a big part of the creative framework, according to many) and the tendency of the big screen to suck you right in to such close-knit, tightly framed action.

But part of it might be that however good an actress Emily Blunt is and as game as she was, I never fully believed her as a dedicated, tough as nails FBI agent.

We meet her at the scene of a grisly find in the ongoing war between the Mexican drug cartels, one that's spilling over into the southern US a bit too often and a bit too violently.

So when mysterious and enigmatic CIA agent Matt (Josh Brolin) offers her a spot on a task force he's putting together to take down one of the worst of the cartels, she tries to ignore the bad vibes her slimy new boss gives her and joins up. It's made even more uncomfortable by the presence of the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) who's either pulling Matt's strings or acting as his fearsome attack dog – she's never sure which.

From the get go you know the crux of the plot is going to be the secrets Matt and Alejandro are hiding from Kate and the truth behind his motives that will be revealed by whatever twist is coming, so the story's only real job is to get there.

That leaves it to director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins (who deserve all the plaudits they've received) to set up and shoot some very well made action scenes that are loaded with tension, it just feels like it needed something more solid to all hang onto.

© 2011-2023 Filmism.net. Site design and programming by psipublishinganddesign.com | adambraimbridge.com | humaan.com.au