‘Sicario’ translates in Spanish to ‘hitman’, but this slow-burning narcotics drama is more miss than hit.
The drug-related problems that lie on the Mexican/US border have long been a fascination of cinema, ever since Orson Welles so excellently examined it in Film Noir’s epitaph, Touch of Evil (1958). Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners), Sicario follows the story of idealistic FBI agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), who is enlisted into a secret government task force charged with putting an end to the war on drugs, and led by Josh Brolin’s DEA agent, Matt, and Benicio Del Toro’s Columbian officer, Alejandro.
Sicario never really feels like the finished article, it attempts to tackle serious and contemporary issues like corruption and the war on drugs but seems to fall short, something always appears to be missing. The film’s pace is perhaps its underpinning problem, it’s an extremely slow burner, and as you wait for the film to pick up the pace, it instead ends up sluggishly dragging its feet to its unsatisfactory climax.
One of the film’s saving graces however is the wonderful cinematography of Roger Deakins. He perfectly captures the desolate and barren landscape of the Mexican/US border, in photography that is undoubtedly reminiscent of his previous work with the Coen Brothers in No Country for Old Men and to a certain extent, Fargo, albeit the desert in that case is covered in a blanket of snow. Several of these beautiful shots in Sicario are also accompanied by an intriguingly haunting score by Villeneuve’s collaborating composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Women’s rights in cinema are a huge debate in contemporary cinema, and to see a female actress in the lead role in a film that is otherwise dominated by male characters is a joy to see. Emily Blunt’s proactive Kate is a hands-on investigator who never shies away from the fight and she is the only character that does not turn a blind eye to the obvious corruption at hand. Kate is morally and at times, physically above her male counterparts, she represents an intensely strong female lead, reminiscent of Ripley or Thelma and Louise.
Sicario encompasses surgical precision in its storytelling, it’s an extremely detailed account of the drug-related problems at the Mexican/US border, at times it is often too detailed, and you find yourself wandering whether certain scenes could have been cut entirely. Although the film provides an interesting take on the border dispute, it ultimately lacks the drive and engagement that would make it the finished article.
Crime, Drama | USA, 2015 | 15 | Lionsgate Film | 1st February 2016 (UK) |Dir.Denis Villeneuve | Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Daniel Kaluuya | Buy:Sicario [DVD]