“… a brilliantly made film with amazing performances, direction, and sound design, but one that lacks any true meaning to me.”
Sicario is a film that took audiences by storm, not that I could tell when I saw the film with only two other people in the theatre during its opening weekend. But despite that, every single person talked highly of it as though they were the only person in the world that saw it. Sicario is a film about FBI kidnapping specialist Kate Mercer (played by Emily Blunt), who gets recruited to a secret, cartel related operation by a mysterious man. This operation is described as finding the men responsible for everything that Kate sees in her job, and putting an end to it. Kate accepts, wanting nothing more than to bring an end to the horrors that she sees daily, but soon finds that this operation isn’t everything that she was told.
I love Denis Villeneuve, as you may know if you have been reading my reviews for the past couple of days, and I am always happy when directors like him get thrust into the spotlight with a film that everyone likes. What confused me, however, was the fact that everyone was talking about Sicario like it was the second coming of Christ. I saw the movie, and thought it was good, but I also saw The Martian on the same day and I hate to say it but I might have liked that better. Sicario is a great movie, but the way people were talking about it made me think that I had accidentally gone into the wrong theatre and watched the wrong film also called “Sicario”. It’s strange to me that a director with such masterpieces as Prisoners and Enemy would have his most mainstream film be one of his weakest, in my opinion. I guess everyone will be wondering why I’m not so much a fan of Sicario so let’s get into it.
I want to start with why I like the film first. I wasn’t lying when I said that Sicario was a good film, because much like Villeneuve’s other films it was executed with such grace and beauty. First and foremost, the acting. Sicario is a film where every single person gives it their all. It is a film that is essentially a fish-out-of-water story and Emily Blunt plays that fish wonderfully. You then have Josh Brolin playing the ever-mysterious character who recruited Kate into this mission, and he is both intimidating as well as laid-back which really brings his character to life. And of course you have Benicio Del Toro who plays the stoic and terrifying “watchdog” Alejandro. All of these actors, and all of the others who were not mentioned, give great performances that really gives a level of depth to the film. Much like Villeneuve’s other works, the directing in Sicario is top-notch. The way the film is shot not only accentuates the tragically beautiful locations of the film, but also help with tension levels during a few choice scenes. Those scenes were maybe the highlight of the film for me. Sicario has some of the best ‘action scenes’ that I have seen in a recent film. The intensity is palpable and I was left not only on the edge of my set, but also clenching my fists harder then I thought was possible. Luckily this constant tension made the film go by in the blink of an eye. The film does a great job building, and maintaining, tension and part of that is thanks to the direction. The other part of that is thanks to the score which is absolutely amazing and it really gives your sound-system a workout. The bass-heavy ominous tones, mixed with the lighter yet shallow musical queues really do a great job at maintaining atmosphere throughout Sicario.
It sounds like I love Sicario, so what was all of that shit I was saying earlier? Well, Sicario is a very well-made film and I would never dream of arguing that. The problems I have with the film are with the story, or lack thereof. I’m not going to spoil the film, so you don’t have to worry about that, but I will discuss vague issues I have with the story and its presentation. Sicario presents a narrative that is so deeply layered and tangled together that I couldn’t wait to dive into it; the problem is there was nothing to dive into. Sicario sets itself up to have twists and turns, and defining character moments but things in this movie just kind of happen. The movie’s “reveal” (if you could even call it that) was good but it didn’t feel like it was proportionate to what the film was setting up. It was more like a drop of water when I was expecting a tsunami. This “reveal” happens and it feels like there is so much more of the story to be told. Unfortunately the film then only has 20 minutes before the credits roll. The ending of the film has a scene that tries to tie this reveal back into the rest of the story, but it just doesn’t cut it. Then the film ends with absolutely nothing being different. It made the entire story seem incidental, and it made me angry that I invested my time with these characters when nothing of note was going to happen. I was half-hoping there to be an after-credits scene that was another two hours long so the film could have an ending that actually meant something. I’m sure there is a metaphor that went completely over my head, or I mis-read the characters when the movie started or something like along those lines that I will be made aware of when I post this review. And what I have to say to that is sometime’s a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a lackluster story is just a lackluster story.
Ultimately Sicario is a brilliantly made film with amazing performances, direction, and sound design, but one that lacks any true meaning to me.
I give Sicario a B