Review: ‘Sicario’ sizzles

Finally … FINALLY … we now are into the meat of the movie season. After trudging through drivel week after week and sitting through such mind-numbing trash like The Boy Next Door, we get to tackle movies that are truly worth our time. Like Sicario. There are good movies and there are great movies. Sicario, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners), is a great film and the perfect movie to help usher in Oscar season.

From a score that is skin crawling and haunting, to sensational performances, to breathtaking cinematography (shot by the always brilliant Roger Deakins), Sicario is a roller coaster ride from start to finish. Moral ambiguity is the currency throughout, represented brilliantly in all characters (some more than others). Each character is brilliantly written, with hidden layers of depth, and it seems everyone (and I do mean everyone) has an agenda. We learn very quickly in Sicario, just because a person is wearing a badge doesn’t mean that they are a good guy.

From the very first moment Sicario begins, it’s clear nothing will be held back. It is a commendable decision, refreshing. While on a tactical mission with her team, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) comes face to face with a literal house of horrors. We are witness to rotting carcasses after rotting carcasses hidden in every corner of this house. Just when you think it couldn’t get much worse, a member of her team falls victim to a booby trap and is blown to pieces. At that moment, Kate decides to join a special task force to bring down the kingpin responsible for it all, Fausto Alarcon. CIA team leader Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), along with a shadowy figure named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), lead Kate on a mission into the heart of cartel-controlled Mexico. From the start of this manhunt there is an immediate feeling Kate is in way over her head. This isn’t your typical by-the-books operation: this is a mission with an unclear objective. Do we even know who the bad guys are?

The entire picture is shrouded in mystery, cloaked in secrecy. Sicario is Spanish slang for hitman, and for a majority of the film we don’t know the Sicario in question. It didn’t matter, at least to me, as I was too enthralled in every moment to catch my breath and try and unpack the mystery. Sicario questions just how far the “good guys” are willing to go to get the “bad guys.” Are we willing to skirt federal laws in order to keep our country safe and secure in the long run? It’s a terrifying question, one Sicario attempts to answer.

Two aspects of this film stood out as brightly as the Las Vegas strip: Benecio Del Toro and The cinematography. Del Toro performance in Sicario is awe inspiring. His every movement, breath, motion, and gaze oozed ruthlessness. He commands each scene as if he’s in a spotlight on stage. You get this feeling everything that has transpired or will transpire is in some way a result of Del Toro’s character. Benicio’s performance is reminiscent of J.K. Simmons in Whiplash; Both are dominating performances, so riveting you just know they will be rewarded come Oscar season.

Deakins’ Cinematography in Sicario is on another level.  The gunfight in the tunnels between America and Mexico is especially memorable. Director Denis Villeneuve creates such cutting edge action sequences, with quick shots between daytime and night vision, it effectively creates an immersive experience.

Movies like Sicario are masterclasses in filmmaking. The editing, the sound, the cinematography, and the performances all translate into a movie that will be considered one of the top 10 movies of 2015 by everyone (yes that means you). Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin are the anchors in an all star cast that makes this movie a can’t miss. Benecio Del Toro delivers a supporting performance that I feel is a lock for multiple nominations, and maybe even multiple wins for the veteran actor. Sicario really has kickstarted Oscar season.


Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.