Cannes Film Festival: Sicario

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin

by Joanna Orland

French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve takes a page out of Michael Mann’s book to create the finely made action thriller Sicario.

In Mexico, ‘Sicario’ means ‘Hitman’.  Set near the U.S. and Mexico border, Sicario the film focuses on idealistic FBI agent Kate, who after discovering a ‘house of horrors’ crime scene, feels compelled to stop the criminals at the root of the problem.  Recruited by a rather dubious government task force led by Josh Brolin, Kate travels to Mexico alongside her new team and Alejandro (Del Toro), a consultant with a mysterious past.  Kate’s moral judgements are put to the test in this fight against the Mexican cartel, criminals whom she feels compelled to bring down through the justice system.

The story is one we’ve seen before, perhaps well suited to a television drama.  What makes Villeneuve’s take on the familiar cinematic, are the stylization and strong performances by heavy-hitters Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt.  Del Toro in particular gives a standout performance as the mysterious Alejandro.  The chemistry between him and Blunt is intriguing throughout.

This film is not only another story about the Mexican drug cartel, but it is also a story about morality and choices.  Kate tries to convince herself that she’s searching for justice, but as she’s thrust into the cartel’s battlefield, the lines between justice and vigilantism are blurred.  As Kate and her team meet criminals, assassins and spies, the right decisions become harder to make, often becoming detrimental to the task at hand.  Is Kate in over her head, or is this something she can and wants to see through to the end?

Not only are the lines between right and wrong actions blurred, but the central characters themselves are often portrayed as neither good nor evil.  Kate represents the moral centre, but as she even questions her own actions, how centred can the morals actually be?  This is something that not only Kate questions throughout the film, but the audience as well as they are presented with circumstances that require unobvious actions.

Stylishly filmed, perfectly paced, brilliantly performed, Sicario is a flawless action thriller.

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