Movie Review: SICARIO – Denis Villeneuve cements his growing reputation with a gritty, intense thriller.


To be honest, I never had a lot of interest in seeing Sicario in its theatrical run, but I didn’t ignore the good press either. If I’d put two and two together earlier in the year that Denis Villeneuve was the director, I would have saw it theatrically, because his short resume contains really good work. I only know Taylor Sheridan’s name from acting gigs, so that wasn’t a draw for me. Turns out, he’s not a bad writer at all.

The movie’s got a decent cast too, with Emily Blunt continuing to make interesting role choices, and Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro on board to provide solid presences. The movie has a great opening scene and an impressive first act. Indeed, overall, the movie is pulled tightly by Villeneuve and the brooding score (by Johan Johansson), so that the slackness of the script at some points doesn’t detract from the finished piece.

Like one of Villeneuve’s last movies, Prisoners, there’s a great sense of atmosphere and tension throughout, and like Prisoners, it hearkens back to the gritty style of the 70s, in the same kind of style as William Friedkin. I’m a fan, obviously.

It falls short of being truly great in my mind because while the events of the story are done well in terms of the episodic beats, I never really felt the gravity of the overall story, because the reveal (though it isn’t much of a classic “reveal”, I suppose) is a giant implication, and the characters don’t really bear the weight of what it all means in the grand scheme of things. The movie also feels a lot shorter than it should, in my opinion, and I think that’s because of my feeling about the story. One of the characters feels utterly superfluous also, and this leads to an important midpoint scene feeling very contrived indeed. If you watch it, you might feel the same way.

Definitely worth watching, despite its story flaws, and I confidently predict Denis Villeneuve is a name to watch for in the future, provided he can stay true to his directorial vision and not glitz things up too much. The Blade Runner sequel is a great high profile choice for him. On the strength of the script and characterisation, Sheridan has a decent future ahead of him too.


© Andrew Hope, 2017

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