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Review: Sicario

Ros Hull

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico. imdb

I know it is the first week of the school hols and I usually try to review a family movie but – we need to talk about this film, or more correctly, I need to talk about it.

Even though some reviewers are calling it slow, I barely used the back of my chair and actually held my breath in several scenes.

It is oh so rare that I see a thriller that truly thrills. I love the genre and generally enjoy the films, however I sometimes feel like I’ve seen all the plots.

If a thriller is really good I tend to break into unseemly arm flapping the minute I leave the theatre and gabble non-stop but after Sicario I didn’t. I didn’t even want to talk for a few minutes (I know, right?) I just wanted to think about it, digest it and admire the brilliant yet deft direction and acting that created it.

Let’s start with the trio of actors at the centre of the story.

Emily Blunt – outrageously talented Emily Blunt, who disappears into the character she creates. Not only is she believable as the FBI agent, I swear even her eyebrows convey volumes of emotion. Her character is watchful, questioning, gutsy and terrified – and I was right there with her throughout her story.

She also has the body language of a soldier, a fighter – and with this and Edge of Tomorrow under her belt we could be looking at the daintiest female action hero ever (still only one stomach flu away from a size zero).

Her role is the centre – the heart – of the film and could easily have been a male role. Her partner plays the part usually reserved for ‘the girl’ so not only is this an exciting film, it is also a refreshing change.

Josh Brolin is the cheerful, unorthodox leader of the cross-agency squad put together to battle the drug kingpin.

He has the air of a smiling assassin –exuding menace and acting like a good ol’ boy at the same time. Some balancing act! There is a moment towards the end where he drops all pretence and it is both subtle and threatening.

Benicio Del Toro – quite simply the best role he has played in years. His scenes with Emily Blunt are just incredible – and again he plays his part with the deft hand of a master violinist drawing every bit of colour from every note.

I know I’m gushing, and it’s the wrong time of the year to release potential Oscar films, but I would nominate him for a Best Supporting Actor right now. I cannot wait to hear him voice the snake in The Little Prince – perfect casting.

The master of this film is a French Canadian director – Denis Villeneuve – who has only begun to dip his toe into Hollywood. He will be a force to be reckoned with, if Sicario is any indication.

He does not shy away from violence and some scenes are quite confronting, but he does not use it gratuitously either.

He is also completely free from American sentimentality – replacing it with a subplot about a Mexican policeman that broke my heart but illustrated the casualties of the war on drugs much more effectively than any schmaltz could.

His IMDb page says his next project will be Untitled Blade Runner Project. I may be just a little bit too excited to see that film…

His direction does have a French sensibility about it, in that there are pauses, long moments of quiet and stillness. This shouldn’t work in a thriller but here it does – it is like that violin is hovering over a note for an eternity before playing it.

As always, my review is only my opinion but I really enjoyed Sicario.

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

  • Ros, I agree with everything. An amazing movie and while really quite violent, somehow the violence was in context and not gratuitous or flashy like so many movies. It is one that will stick with me and I’m keen to see Denis Villeneuve’s back catalog now.

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