365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Sicario (2015)

With three months left to go in 2015, we have a new contender for the best movie of the year and the name of that movie is Sicario. This movie is an amazing ride that will keep you thoroughly engrossed and guessing the entire time. Like a lot of the great movies over the last couple of years, the less you know about the movie going in, the more I think you'll like this movie. For me, this has been the case recently with movies like Ex-Machina, The Drop, The Gift, and Chef. All of these were unexpected surprises and each are movies that I plan on watching again in the future. The same can be said about Sicario. Once you know how the movie ends, you'll want to watch it again to try and see it again through a new set of lenses. It's intense. It's filled with drama. It will leave you with your mouth hung ajar. That is if you let it. This is a movie where you need to really pay attention. If you doze off for even a couple of minutes, you might miss something important. If you miss something important, you might feel lost. If you feel lost, you might get frustrated. But if you are willing to work as hard as the movie does, you'll be rewarded with one of the most exciting, well-crafted, and original movies that you are likely to find this year (or any year for that matter).

Let's start first with the acting and then the plot. The acting is absolutely top notch. Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau, Edge of Tomorrow) has never been better. Usually playing second fiddle to more accomplished actors, Blunt takes control in her first opportunity to star as a movie's lead. Her earnest, calculated portrayal of FBI agent Kate Macer who is working the southwest corner of the United States, tracking kidnap victims and raiding drug houses. Not a risk taker by nature, Kate volunteers to take on an assignment that she knows nothing about, with people she knows nothing about, with a plan that she knows nothing about because she is blinded by the potential of righting a wrong. She becomes obsessed with taking down the people responsible for a dozen or so murdered bodies that she discovered buried in the walls in the film's opening scene. On top of this, en explosive killed two of her officers. So when she is offered an opportunity to REALLY take down the people most responsible for the crime, despite her hesitations, it doesn't take a lot of convincing.

Josh Brolin (Milk, Oldboy) fresh off what I considered to be a slightly disappointing performance in Everest (a disappointing movie in itself) bounces back strong with his portrayal of Matt, a bit of an enigma throughout this movie. We don't know whether we should trust him or like him, but we want to do both of those things. His title isn't immediately known and this disturbs Kate. But Matt (Brolin) is smooth with his words and convincing with his promises and he reels Kate into his plan. His plan involves using pawns to get to the top of the food chain and eliminate the major supplier who was responsible for these murders. He's aloof. He's flamboyant. He seems to make up the rules as he goes. But he's loyal to his country.

Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, The Hunted) plays Alejandro. He's even more of a mystery than Matt is. Like Matt, we also don't know if we should trust him or like him, but we want to do both of these things. He's not quite as personable as Matt and his reasons for involving himself in Matt's plan are unknown. We aren't made aware of his reasons right away and, like Matt, we don't even know who Alejandro is. It's been a few days since I wrote this review, but I cannot remember if Alejandro actually smiles even one time in this movie. The same could be said for Kate for a good portion of this film. What's interesting is the shift of whose story this becomes as the movie comes along. It's a gradual shift, but it definitely occur. It just further adds to the intrigue about both the plot and the characters.

Sicario is the best movie about the war on drugs since Traffic. However, this movie is different from Traffic in three big ways. The first is that it is much more action based and thus, to me, a more entertaining movie. The second is that it tells just one story rather than three or four different ones. The third is the movie isn't really about the war on drugs as much as Traffic was. In Traffic (a movie released in 2000), there was still hope that we could win against the war on drugs. In 2015's Sicario, it is clear that the war on drugs is over and that drugs prevailed. One of the main characters describes this to Kate in the following terms, "as long as tens of millions of Americans want to inhale and snort illegal drugs and they don’t really care about the chain of supply and what it entails, the best law enforcement can do is work to slow down the tide, target some of the most heinous drug lords and try to keep the violence from escalating to even more horrific levels". Point taken, even if it is something we don't necessarily want to hear. So does that quote really mean what it implies? Do we let the drugs come into our country and be sold on the streets if we can best control these drug dealers are? It certainly doesn't seem implausible. Sometimes a plan fails and it needs to be adjusted on the way. So who do we, the United States of America, determines who we will allow to sell drugs in our country when selling drugs in our country is illegal. That's just one of many ethical dilemmas that these characters are forced to face. But, in essence, this is quote that Sicario is built around.

You never really know what's going on with Sicario. And I think that's the best part. Each of us spectators is essentially seeing the plot unfold through the eyes of Kate (Blunt). Sometimes we feel like we are wicked smart and at other times we feel like the dumbest ones in the room. Who is in control of what is happening? Is it Kate? Is it Matt? Is it Alejandro? Is it someone else? Is it Juarez? Is no one in control at all? Who is good? Who is bad? So many questions and they will get answered. Just trust in director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Incendies) who has learned from mistakes made in some of his previous films and doesn't allow this one to go on and on once the story as been told. That was always my biggest problem with Prisoners. It had the potential to be an amazing film (and some people it was), but there was an extra 45 minutes added to it when it had it ending in place.

The score for this movie is killer. It's gripping and repeats it often enough to be part of its theme. Jóhann Jóhannsson's score was eerily reminiscent to Hans Zimmer's score for The Dark Knight Rises. I know that I've mentioned the word intense a few times in this review, but everything in this movie is built around keeping you on edge and keeping you guessing. And, for me, this totally works. Likewise the imagery on location, particularly on the streets of Juarez and the underground tunnel connecting Mexico to the United States makes you fully aware that these characters are continually in very dangerous situations.

This is an absolutely terrific movie that needs to be seen. I personally recommend seeing it in the theater. But if that's not possible, check it out at home when it becomes available in a few months.

Plot 10/10
Character Development 10/10
Character Chemistry 9.5/10
Acting 10/10
Screenplay 9.5/10
Directing  10/10
Cinematography 9.5/10
Sound 9.5/10
Hook and Reel 10/10
Universal Relevance 9.5/10

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  1. Watched this tonight at the firehouse and loved it. I’m glad that you referenced Traffic, because the film felt like a sequel…done 15 years later in world that is much more lost to the drug trade. Although, interestingly, Juarez as a city is on a rebound of sorts since 2010.

    I thought that the characters were fascinating, and the story was outstanding. The way the movie twists and turns can only be done with the predictable government spook storyline, but they really made it work in unpredictable ways. Our biggest debate after the movie was about Kate…was she a strong woman or a weak soldier?

    Your summary of the movie is spot-on…eye-to-eye on this one. And the score was what completed the movie. I was thinking while watching that I could take the score, set it to some movie of my kid’s birthday, and anyone watching would feel like something was about to go down.

    My favorite film in a long time.

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