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Sicario (2015)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

SICARIO (2015)

Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya

Written By: Taylor Sheridan Directed By: Denis Villenueve

The Shot

Sicario is fantastically made, fantastically played, and absolutely bleak as hell.  It is very much worth seeing, but I’m not sure I’d want to hang out with anyone outside the filmmaking or law enforcement professions who’d consider it entertaining enough to own.


The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

JALAPENO QUESO.

A legal addictive substance, hecho en Mexico.


Pairs Well With...

TEQUILA.

A legal addictive substance, hecho en Mexico.

“What the fuck are we doing?”


Few motion pictures are so perfectly described by a single line of dialogue as Sicario is described by the one written above.  It’s a question that’s really a statement; a summary placard set to describe a surreal portrait that is made so through near-documentary realism.  Said portrait is itself a nasty punch to the gut that should leave any healthy, civilized person feeling very uncomfortable, but with brain fully engaged and thoughts provoked.

Call it a poignant political thriller-drama, if you like.

As for me, I call Sicario the sort of movie that I very much enjoy watching on the big screen but would never in a hundred years want to rent or own for the small one.

What I enjoy at the theatre – a place I go to as a sanctuary from the world’s day-to-day – is the power of being drawn into a well-crafted story and pulled away from my daily experience in a way that no “home theatre” short of a Star Trek style holodeck will ever be able to match.  Within the immersive confines of this story, I can and do enjoy the craft of it all: the production design, the score, the attention to detail, the outstanding direction, and oh yes the fantastic performances, at least two of which – those of Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro, specifically – deserve to be recognized in the coming months with some shiny mantle statuary.  (Blunt’s extraordinary ability to retain humanity in the midst of a harrowing performance and Del Toro’s own mesmerizing way of making utter inhumanity feel human are both wondrous to behold.)  I enjoy having my thoughts provoked, especially in the way that Sicario does it: with a message that, while blatant and on-point, still avoids being too heavy-handed, allowing for audiences to walk away with differing opinions regarding the subject at hand.  Like its characters, Sicario is as extraordinarily complex or as straight-up simple as any given audience wants to make it.

It is also bleak as hell.

Sicario does not shy away from visceral, violent imagery.  Within the first five minutes, there’s a house full of corpses that even the cops on the screen have to retch at.  When people get shot or stabbed or beaten (which is often enough), the results are bloody, gory, and quite realistic, with no glory added.  (And yet, nothing is gratuitous; all violence is of definite service to the story, and the very nastiest death blows actually occur off screen.)  The only time anyone is happy for any reason that wouldn’t have a normal psychologist suggesting an immediate need for therapy, that person is made to regret it.  When a subplot centered around family time makes its way into the picture (some have called that superfluous; I do not), one knows from the very start that things will not end up well for these people. 

Everything about Sicario is meant to cause disquiet… and to provoke thought.  The fact that it succeeds so well on both counts despite being completely predictable from start to finish is a testament to just how well directed, well performed, and well edited this movie is.  (Because honestly, even without an opening title card that completely gives away the store, every single plot and character point is telegraphed so far in advance that one sometimes feels as though a full synopsis must have played during the pre-feature previews.  But again, it’s so well done and so immersively presented that one simply doesn’t care.)

It’s the kind of experience that very much grabs my attention at a theatre… and that for whatever reason just doesn’t work for me at all on the small screen.  To be honest, I don’t know that I’d really want to hang around anyone outside the filmmaking or law enforcement professions who’d find Sicario entertaining enough to own.

Bottom line, Sicario is definitely worth the time… once.  And that once should be enough to earn Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro serious consideration for shiny mantle hardware a few months down the road.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2015


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