Buzz! Buzz! Buzz! Can you hear it? It’s Oscar Buzz season and the rumors of which films may or may not be contenders have begun their yearly journey. Depending on your interest level in Oscar Buzz season, Sicario may or may not be on your radar. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and the Oscar contender talk immediately followed.
As the film notes in a series of title cards, sicario means hitman. The journey of the word, from a term used during the Roman Empire to its modern meaning of hitman in Mexico, perfectly captures the main concern of the film: the U.S. government’s struggle to control Mexican drug cartels. It’s an ancient battle, one captured in a countless number of films, and Sicario is the latest film to tackle the subject.
Sicario begins with a gruesome discovery during an FBI raid. (Side Note: This reviewer feels the need to emphasize the word gruesome, for those readers that might be more faint of heart). It is during this raid that we meet Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), a leading agent with the FBI. After the raid, Kate is handpicked to volunteer with a task force going after the men responsible for the discoveries at the raid. Hellbent on seeking justice, Kate agrees to join the task force. As their mission becomes clear, the lines between right and wrong become blurred, leaving Kate to decide where her allegiances lie.
Sicario is one of the most beautifully shot films this reviewer has seen in a long time. If I would not have gotten kicked out of the screening, I would’ve been taking pictures on my phone, some of these shots were that fantastic! Besides the creativity of the shots — which ranged from simply well-done to blow your mind splendor — the film adhered to a color scheme to such a detailed degree, that I want to both thank and applaud the team that worked on color correction. No matter if we were in the Kate’s bedroom or the ghettos of Juarez, Mexico, the film was awash in tans and blues which worked to emphasize the film’s steady calm against some of the more chaotic moments.
Besides the aesthetics, Sicario offers up two great performances by Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro. For many, Emily Blunt is still the comedic assistant in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada. She has taken on serious roles since then — The Young Victoria (my personal favorite), Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Edge of Tomorrow — but none of them have really won her award show gold. Why Blunt may deserve the praise for her Sicario performance comes from her ability to create a fully fleshed out character out of what may typically be stone. Her character is a serious woman but Blunt brings flickers of realness that balance out, or intensify the complexities of an outwardly austere exterior. She makes this no-nonsense agent a human being. Pairing Blunt with the experience of Del Toro also gives the film a unique chemistry that helps bring the drama of the film to another level.
Where the film takes an unfortunate dip is the storyline. To be brutally honest, it’s generic, made of bits and pieces that we have all seen before. There’s not much an edge-of-your-seat dramatic arc, but even with that said, it still offers up a steady train of twists that will keep any viewer enticed.