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January 2016

Sicario

cast: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Victor Garber, and Jeffrey Donovan

director: Denis Villeneuve

121 minutes (15) 2015
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Lions Gate DVD Region 2
[released 1 February]

RATING: 8/10
review by Steven Hampton

Sicario

Emily Blunt is a British actress who hit super-starry leagues as the leading lady of Joe Johnston's The Wolfman (2010). That same year she excelled at both action and rom-com in Jonathan Lynn's Wild Target, a witty remake of an original French black farce directed in 1993 by Pierre Salvadori. Blunt then moved into the varied realms of sci-fi starting with George Nolfi's romantic actioner The Adjustment Bureau (2011), where she played a modern ballet dancer pursued by a lovesick politician. In Rian Johnson's mystery-thriller Looper (2012), Blunt is the human anchor for a mind-boggling time-travel story, while Doug Liman's quirky alien-invasion adventure, Edge Of Tomorrow (2014), sees her portray a wartime heroine who repeatedly executes a cowardly officer (co-star Tom Cruise).

For Sicario (Spanish for 'hitman') Blunt tackles another action role, as federal agent Kate Macer, a rescue expert leading tactical assaults against hide-outs of known criminals in kidnapping crimes. Attempting to free hostages, a raid by FBI and SWAT finds only dozens of dead bodies hidden behind walls of an otherwise ordinary house. In the wake of this grisly discovery, Kate is recruited as tag-along woman for military-assisted ops sanctioned against the elusive boss of a Mexican drug cartel. On a flight to El Paso, they detour into Juarez city and launch a cross-border policing action led by swaggering cowboy Graver (Josh Brolin), and his Delta Force strike team.

Our anxious American heroine becomes concerned about unethical CIA deals with the spooky Colombian 'advisor', Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). We are spoon-fed casebook info, via Kate, as Graver's questionable strategy uses her as unwitting bait, to lure out a corrupt cop, and she learns that her voluntary role, as a token FBI agent on Graver's taskforce, makes her a pawn of the geopolitical system with an extralegal agenda.

"This is a land of wolves now." Moody and stylish with a keen degree of realism Sicario remains lacklustre if viewed wrongly as a standard actioner but it's a powerful movie that does quite well as murky morality tale, and is exemplary as a violent crime thriller, following Michael Mann's gritty approach to policier dramas like Manhunter, Heat, Miami Vice (2006), and Blackhat. Most notably though, it is Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty that's evoked repeatedly here, particularly by a female protagonist's determined pursuit of justice for innocent victims, and equality for herself - while she works for a disrespectful and wholly sexist establishment system, dominated by white men.

Denis Villeneuve previously made lamentable kidnapping revenger, Prisoners, with a woefully miscast Hugh Jackman, and pretentiously Kafkaesque doppelganger-mystery, Enemy, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Sicario is arguably Villeneuve's best work to date, and he's now challenged with directing Ridley Scott's Blade Runner sequel.



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