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Sicario Movie Review

Sicario: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art
Sicario is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray + DVD combo.

Sicario (2015) movie poster Sicario

Theatrical Release: September 18, 2015 / Running Time: 121 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Denis Villeneuve / Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Cast: Emily Blunt (Kate Macer), Benicio Del Toro (Alejandro), Josh Brolin (Matt Graver), Victor Garber (Dave Jennings), Jon Bernthal (Ted), Daniel Kaluuya (Reggie Wayne), Jeffrey Donovan (Steve Forsing), Raoul Trujillo (Rafael), Julio Cesar Cedillo (Fausto Alarcon), Hank Rogerson (Phil Coopers), Bernardo Saracino (Manuel Diaz), Maximiliano Hernández (Silvio), Kevin Wiggins (Burnett), Edgar Arreola (Guillermo), Kim Larrichio (Silvio's Wife), Jesus Nevarez-Castillo (Eliseo), Dylan Kenin (Delta Leader)

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Sicario is the third American film in as many years for French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve, who put himself on the map with his Middle Eastern drama Incendies, a 2011 Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, captured moviegoers' attentions with 2013's dark mystery Prisoners and, to a lesser degree,
2014's trippy limited release Enemy. Sicario should fall between the two in terms of commercial appeal. This drama about the War on Drugs opened in six theaters last week before expanding nationwide today. It is an action movie with star power, though Villeneuve's artful ways could hinder the commercial prospects of this suitably-timed release.

Building upon the action résumé that she developed in well-received science fiction movies, Emily Blunt fills the lead role of Kate Macer. A Phoenix-based FBI agent who specializes in perilous kidnapping rescues, Kate opens the film in action, coolly navigating a raid on a Chandler, Arizona home where nearly 50 dead bodies are discovered in plastic bags inside the walls. The deceased are casualties of drug cartels which have expanded north well past the US-Mexican border. Kate's fine work on that scene along with her years of spotless service earn her a recommendation for a position on an interdepartmental task force.

Volunteering as required, Kate soon finds herself on a private jet that is not really headed for El Paso, Texas as stated, but Juárez, Mexico. She is accompanied by two men: her laid-back new supervisor Matt (Josh Brolin), whose Department of Defense affiliation she doubts, and the quiet, worldly Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), whose credentials are closely guarded and whose power seems potentially infinite.

In "Sicario", FBI Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) volunteers to join an interdepartmental task force targeting powerful Mexican drug cartels.

Down in Mexico, where nude, mutilated bodies hang from bridges downtown, Kate discovers just about anything is fair game in this war: from taking out armed men in the middle of a traffic jam to torturing suspects. Kate and her less experienced, less welcome FBI partner (Daniel Kaluuya) are not convinced they are cut out for this work or that they are even doing the right thing. This task force's methods are a far cry from the FBI's by-the-book procedures and their operations make this about the most dangerous job imaginable.

Villeneuve once again employs the techniques that have distinguished his previous films. The director is big on developing atmosphere and allowing it to grow at its own pace. There are many shots where we tag along with Kate and the others in silence, anxieties of the unknown obstacles to come developing in us at the same time they are festering inside our hardened, baggageless heroine.

Blunt is great in the film's biggest role. There are few action movies with female lead characters and even fewer where that isn't some calculated design or "girl power" selling point. Blunt's part was apparently nearly rewritten for a man. The actress demonstrates that wouldn't have been wise. Even though there are probably few, if any, FBI agents with her looks, you buy Blunt as a woman of action married to her job. Her American accent is flawless and the performance recalls Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs more than Milla Jovovich or Angelina Jolie in their less than intellectual action vehicles.

The mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) takes whatever measures he must to find the top members of an international drug cartel.

Sicario comes close to losing you with its muddled twists and misdirects. This intense film takes its anything-can-happen attitude to heart and sells it well. At any point in time, even the most developed of characters could die or reveal their allegiances or motives to be entirely different than what you believed.
You wouldn't really question it, either, knowing the stakes and that Villeneuve has repeatedly taken delight in subverting expectations.

Sicario is nicely photographed by Roger Deakins, a 12-time Oscar nominee who earned Prisoners its only Academy Award nomination but is still waiting to enter the winner's circle despite decades of commendable work for the Coen Brothers and other respected filmmakers. Though it probably won't stick around long enough to stay in competition for awards, Sicario's best shot at a nomination other than cinematography would be Blunt for lead actress. She's built up enough goodwill since her breakout role in The Devil Wears Prada nine years ago to feel overdue for her first Oscar nod. There are so few roles of substance for women that it wouldn't be unbelievable to see the actress snag at least a Golden Globe nomination, which would be her fifth in film (her only win there came for the TV movie Gideon's Daughter back in 2007).

Sicario marks a promising screenwriting debut for Taylor Sheridan, an actor you might know from his recurring roles on "Sons of Anarchy" and "Veronica Mars." Sheridan's second script, the Texas crime drama Comancheria, is already being filmed with a cast that includes Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Dennis Villeneuve: Prisoners
Now in Theaters: Black MassEverestPawn Sacrifice
Emily Blunt: Edge of TomorrowLooperInto the WoodsArthur Newman
Benicio Del Toro: TrafficInherent ViceFear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Josh Brolin: No Country for Old MenLabor DayGangster Squad
Jon Bernthal: The Wolf of Wall StreetGrudge MatchThe Walking Dead: Season 1

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Reviewed September 25, 2015.

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