I’ve only seen one other of director Denis Villeneuve’s films previous to Sicario and that was 2013 thriller Prisoners. This film gripped me like few other films have done before and with several re-watches it has only improved in quality. It’s firmly one of my favourite ever thrillers now. Therefore my feelings towards Sicario were a mix of anticipation and expectation.
Sicario is one of the most impressive films of the year for sure. Why is it so impressive? Well why I think so is that Villeneuve has managed to craft what should be just an action film into a fully fledged thriller. He does this in several fantastic ways. Probably the most noticeable way he does this is when he really focuses on certain elements of scenes, elements that would have been glossed over by other directors. Villeneuve doesn’t mind how comfortable the viewer is but instead chooses to zoom in or focus on aspects of the scene that are maybe the most gruesome or explicit. This repeated focus throughout the scenes allows the reality of the situation to really sink in with the viewer and builds tension at an accelerated pace. One scene in particular utilises a night vision technique very well – using similar methods to create that great presence of tension that there is in Sicario. The tension transpires through most of the film and is present at times you wouldn’t expect. Even when the action covers a huge area it’s effective. Setting is usually a massive factor in establishing tension, usually the film will have to be in an enclosed setting but not here as Villeneuve manages to establish and maintain fantastic tension even on the biggest of scales.
All of the actors cast perform very well but the film really belongs to Benicio del Toro. I’m a big fan of del Toro as it is but this could well be my favourite performance of his to date. He owns the film thanks to great character writing and an attention demanding performance. Josh Brolin and Emily Blunt do well too – neither being all that likeable but they contribute what they need to, and they do this well, for the purpose of the picture. Thanks to the fantastic tension and the good performances I never even noticed the passing of time, the film is two hours long but this flies by in an instant. Another element that helps with both the pace and the tension was the score. Again collaborating with Jóhann Jóhannsson (Prisoners) Villeneuve manages to create an atmosphere where there would never have been one before. The score is booming when it needs to be and always adds to the tension, it took me back to the score for another great thriller – Shutter Island! Another aspect I enjoyed was the ambiguous introduction of characters into the story, their involvement in the film wasn’t made immediately clear. This was great as it allowed the viewer to piece together what kind of characters they were going to be. This was just one more element that showcased how well put together this movie is.
Sicario is another fantastic film from Denis Villeneuve, with Prisoners already under his belt and now this he really is the King of creating tension. He combines so many elements and techniques to achieve this allowing him to elevate this action movie into a thriller. Benicio del Toro performs very well and is completely captivating, Blunt and Brolin are solid too helping to tell this suspenseful story in the best possible way.
Rating – 9/10