A brilliant and exciting movie by Denis Villeneuve that had almost everything going right for it - great directing, excellent cinematography, fantastic music and a top-notch cast - except for a familiarly subversive, and slightly uneven story that really only worked because the protagonist was a female, and that female was Emily Blunt. And there was Benicio del Toro.
After Enemy and Prisoners, Villeneuve returned with a home-run that is Sicario. From the opening sequence on, this slow-burning drug/crime procedural did not let down on its pacing. The action sets were not big or showy, but Villeneuve's direction was precise and notched up the tension expertly. Buoyed by Roger Deakin's gorgeous cinematography and Johann Johannsson's sumptuous music (much better than his work on The Theory of Everything), this film was a visual and aural pleasure!
Using Blunt's character as an audience surrogate, we follow the story as blind as her, and slowly understand the larger picture at about the same rate as she. That made for an effective storytelling and ensured empathy for her character.
But what was really great about the movie was the subversion of expectations. The story itself, written by Taylor Sheridan, was nothing new; it could have come from any number of spy dramas out there, and possibly even ripped off from Homeland or 24. However, it absolutely turned the Hollywood archetypal strong female action hero on its head.
Blunt's character slowly became less relevant narratively as the plot unfolds as del Toro's role took on more significance. However, Villeneuve still skillfully managed to maintain Blunt as the epicentre of the story although the slight narrative detour to focus on del Toro's character did disrupt the flow of the story.
Blunt absolutely nailed her role and impressed with her range of emotions that she conveyed just through her physicality, eyes and body language. By the end of the movie, we were as put through the wringer as she was, and could really empathise with her situation.
Del Toro also stood out. He started off as an enigma and really, towards the end, still remained so. However, he has an extremely strong presence stealing the scenes in a subtle, non-showy, way.
Josh Brolin played a typical role. He bordered on being overly cocky and annoying, but thankfully, managed to rein it in.
An excellent movie that really set the bar high for all upcoming Oscar-baiting movies!