By Preman Koshar II Arts & Entertainment Editor
If Denis Villeneuve’s newest film, Sicario, could be defined with a single word, it would be anxiety. Within minutes of opening, guns have been fired, dozens of bodies have been found, and a surprise explosion takes place—these become the norm for the remainder of the film. In Sicario, Emily Blunt stars as FBI special agent Kate Macer, who primarily works to stop the drug trade near the Mexican border.
She and her partner (Daniel Kaluuya) are ultimately asked to join a special task force led by possible CIA agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and assisted by a possible hitman, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro), to find the men responsible for the aforementioned bodies and explosion. From there, Kate learns that there is a troubling gray area between good and evil, and that very few people are who they claim to be.
The film has excellent cinematography, and will undoubtedly be nominated for an Oscar in this regard. There are many beautiful panoramic shots over cities and deserts, and numerous interesting, artistic shots during the more close-up and action-packed scenes. The score is also impressive, filled with jangly, aggressive noises that are clearly designed to raise your hackles when appropriate, and to keep the momentum going during slower, more dialogue-focused scenes. The score reminded me of a lone banjo player wandering down an empty road—eerie and anxiety provoking, while not going so far as to be unpleasant.
The acting is well done as well. Emily Blunt does a great job as a conflicted, but tough agent, but the theme of the tough guy (or gal, in this case) who doesn’t believe in a gray area feels a bit overdone and melodramatic. Every action ever committed by humankind is a shade of gray; there is no true black and no true white. It’s annoying when characters don’t seem to be able to understand this. The other characters do a good job in their supporting roles, especially Josh Brolin, who has nailed the casually sadistic CIA agent role. He is scary and disarmingly charming at the same time.
The plot has strong momentum, and barrels forward at a refreshing pace, but was a little too predictable for my liking. A movie of this caliber, with such lively characters, should have had more of a twist. I should not have been able to see the ending coming two-thirds of the way through the movie. The dialogue is decent, but not exemplary. A lot of corny, stereotypical action phrases are used during combat, and while the general discussions between characters weren’t poorly written, they weren’t powerful or particularly eloquent, either.
Overall, Sicario is a strong film with a lot of good attributes—even a few great ones. However, it’s unfortunate that it fell a bit short in some key areas, such as the plot and dialogue. Sicario could have been one of this year’s greats, but instead it will be remembered as one of this year’s “pretty goods.”
Preman Koshar is the Arts and Entertainment Editor. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.