Denis Villeneuve is a filmmaker capable of making thrilling drama and emotional brilliance, and as a visual storyteller, he is absolutely phenomenal. With the release of his sadly underrated Prisoners two years ago, Villeneuve has started to gain somewhat of a mainstream following, which resulted in him being able to do a large studio film, and instead of being small, quaint and humble, he was able to do something with a budget an an all-star cast. The result of that is Sicario, a great action film, but one with legitimate flaws and problems.
I usually do praise the casts in my reviews, and this cast is very strong, and its a powerful three-hander, comprising of Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. Blunt is suitably tough and vulnerable, which is exactly what the character calls for. It is actually such a great surprise to see a female-led action film where the focus is not on romance or the fact that the main character is female, and proves that woman can be buttkickers just as well as any other man. Josh Brolin, who is a fantastic actor, actually (for the first time), been the comic relief of the film, and while his character is very serious, his laid-back attitude and quirky one-liners are fantastic.
However, the true star of this film was Benicio Del Toro. Del Toro is truly one of the most brilliant actors working today, and it goes without saying that he does amazing work with every single role he is given. He has never been better than here in Sicario, playing a mysterious and sinister officer with a blurry past and questionable motivations. However, as good as the cast is, there lies a very big flaw – their performances were great, but each of them gave a performance that we have seen before. They didn’t stretch themselves in quite the ways that would’ve made them receive a lot more acclaim, but it was still a great effort from the three of them. The supporting cast is pretty forgettable, but have some very interesting moments that I wish could be explained more.
Villeneuve is a fantastic visual director, and because of that, a lot of this film is captured by the brilliance of the way Sicario looks. Roger Deakins, who could quite possibly be the greatest cinematographer of all time, gives unique and innovative depth to an otherwise conventional film. The way Sicario was filmed is perhaps what is going to make it be remembered years from now. There are so many moments of sweeping beauty or intense visual artistry, all from Deakins and Villeneuve tinkering with the idea of how this film should be filmed. There are some aspects and elements to this film that show clear flaws, but the cinematography never lets the film down, and is truly brilliant and innovative.
The biggest flaw of Sicario is the script. The acting is powerful and the filmmaking and visual style is breathtakingly wonderful. However, the script lets the entire film down, as while it does tell an interesting story, it does so in a very formulaic, conventional way. Just listening to the dialogue proves how unremarkable the screenwriting is, and that is unfortunate, as it could’ve been so much better if the cliches and bland dialogue was left out or edited overall. However, this is a problem that has plagued Villeneuve for a lot of his career, and while they were good films, his previous films such as Prisoners and Enemy were great, but had deeply flawed scripts that prevented their ascension to the level of masterpieces. The moment Villeneuve is able to find a strong script that panders to his talents as a filmmaker, he will instantly acquire a masterpiece-level film.
Sicario is a film that I just wish developed characters a bit more. We could’ve delved deeper into the world of the three main characters, and while Benicio’s character is getting his own film, something is left unsatisfied with Brolin and Blunt’s characters. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded another half an hour to just give the characters some depth, because that would’ve allowed us as the audience to connect with them on an emotional level, and make the film somewhat more enjoyable. Still, it is an honorable attempt at doing something differently.
Sicario was a film I enjoyed tremendously. It was snappy, smart and sleek, and had great performances and impeccable filmmaking skills behind it. I do think it isn’t exactly destined to become a classic of cinema very soon, but it will be remembered for being a tense, heart-racing and intelligent thriller and a fantastic film overall. It may not Villeneuve’s greatest achievement, but a great addition to his spectacular filmography, which can only get better and better, as evident by his continuing dedication to cinema.