Sicario Review

18 Sep


Sicario is a movie built upon uncertainty: uncertainty about loyalties, motives, and purposes in our nation’s never-ending drug war, uncertainty that’s always one step away from descending into full-blown chaos. As is made clear throughout, right and wrong and black and white are all incredibly difficult to distinguish here, and any attempt to change the status quo–deep-seated corruption–will likely be met with deaf ears and lots of bullets.

Central to that idea is Emily Blunt’s Kate Macer, someone who holds onto the belief that she’s on the right side of right and wrong, that there are rules, that the people around her are going by the book. Of course, the book in question is quite shitty, and she comes face to face with the harsh reality of the situation many times throughout the movie. Blunt captures her character’s determination, frustration, confusion, and vulnerability wonderfully, and the movie’s focus on her dynamic with Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro is electric. Along with Josh Brolin’s Matt and Daniel Kaluuya’s Reggie, the cast provides a good amount of levity while also revealing the darkness underneath. Victor Garber is also present in this movie, and he does things like speaking.

Ultimately, though, the idea that Villeneuve’s trying to hit on about the futility of Kate’s idealism does weaken the rest of the story a bit. It’s really interesting to have a main character essentially pushed aside by the supporters–also nice that she’s not defined by her sex–but the result for everyone is more symbol than character. It is intentional to have Kate’s role diminished as the movie progresses, but when we shift focus to another character, it starts to feel like we’ve spent both too much and too little time with her. Solid idea, but the plot and other characters are thinned out as a result, and the emotional impact doesn’t build up as nicely as it could’ve (it definitely still hits at the end, I’ll give it that).


Whatever weaknesses there may be in plot is mostly made up for in production. Oscar-less Roger Deakins knocks it out of the park yet again, combining beautiful aerial shots with tight close-ups as he and Villeneuve craft the movie’s heart-pounding action sequences. There’s a traffic jam scene early on that’s a highlight, and Deakins adeptly uses windows and doors to obscure and reveal, to ramp up the tension. Later on, there’s a nighttime tunnel scene that showcases his amazing talent when it comes to filming in the dark, and throughout, he has a penchant for utilizing contrasts between shadows and light. One of his best sequences involves the shadow of the characters’ plane at the edge of the screen, flying upward as we’re taken through the skies of Mexico. It’s just a small blip in the already existent landscape, something that’s trying to permanently alter, but will most likely continue to fail.



-I was lucky enough to catch this in LA on opening night. It feels great to finally get to see a movie during its limited release period (limited releases are infuriating).

-Some of my favorite shots: Kate smoking while walking toward a group of buses, soldiers with a sunset in the background, a knife in a tunnel entryway, and a group of helicopters flying off into the distance. Me merely describing them here does them no justice.

-Half of Emily Blunt’s instructions for this movie: “Angrily walk away”.

-There is a generic “guy has kid” storyline in this. It is meh.

-Great score by Johann Johannsson. The sound in this movie is top notch as well.

Photo credit: Sicario, Black Label Media, Thunder Road Pictures, Gollumpus

16 Responses to “Sicario Review”

  1. karzaner September 18, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    I’m very excited to see Emily Blunt take on this role!

  2. peggyatthemovies September 18, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

    I saw it in LA last night too..if you tell me you were at the 7pm showing at AMC Century City I will scream!! hahahahahah I saw it a bit differently than you..especially Blunt’s performance, but agree on Brolin & Del Toro & shooting style of the film..and no my grade won’t be as high as yours! ha!

    • polarbears16 September 20, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

      I was there!!!!

      • peggyatthemovies September 20, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

        NOOOOOO WAY!!! I love that.. I can’t believe we were in the same theatre..we’ve could’ve said HELLO!! 😀 should get a movie pass card. For $35 a month you can go to a movie every 24hrs. The only theatres it doesn’t work on is Arclight and Landmark. But EVERYWHERE ELSE you can go. It pays for itself with 3 movies..and I use it all the time especially for my foreign & indie films at :Laemmle’s.

      • polarbears16 September 26, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

        I’ll definitely look into that! The pass will definitely be worth it around Oscar season, seeing as everything comes out at the same time.

  3. peggyatthemovies September 18, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    PS.. Might I welcome you to LA and the world of ‘select cities’ release and loads of foreign & indie films at the Laemmle & Landmark & Aero..Sundance etc.. 🙂 hope you enjoy our fantastically weird weather we are having too! 😀

    • polarbears16 September 20, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

      Thank you! I’m excited to finally get to see all these lesser known films, rather than having to wait for weeks and weeks to see them.

      • peggyatthemovies September 20, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

        Hopefully we will get to meet and say hello one of these days..and yes, it’s very nice to be able to do that!!

  4. MovieManJackson September 19, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    Can’t wait for this one, Polarbears. I think I may like it more than you, but who knows? The movie I’m really looking forward to in these next few months. Avoided the Other Thoughts section and skimmed lightly on the piece, but I liked what I read!

  5. killkenny16 September 21, 2015 at 1:57 am #

    I had to double-check to make sure that Roger Deakins is Oscar-less. Twelve nominations and no wins! That’s just criminal.

    I’m hoping to catch this movie when it gets a wide-release. It comes out on the same weekend as The Martian I think though, so… Coin flip time???

    • polarbears16 September 22, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

      Yeah all these movies being released at the same time, makes it hard to pick. If I had the time I would just sit in a theater for a day and knock out 4-5 movies.

  6. JustMeMike October 2, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    I saw the film today – I’ve not written my review yet, but I believe I’d rate it higher than you did. But I’ve no quibbles about your thoughts and ideas concerning the film.
    Yes, I caught the tiny airplane shadow on the Mexican landscape, and yes I was totally thrilled by the pulsating musical score which always amped up what was going to already be a pressure packed situation.

    Good job on your review and I’m sure this film will catch some Oscar noms.

  7. jimfear October 16, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    Villeneuve and Deakins is a match made in heaven.

  8. Chris Lindsay December 29, 2017 at 9:50 am #

    Well-written analysis of Sicario. I’m hoping the sequel will be just as good.


  1. My Top 20 Films of 2015 | Polar Bears Watch TV - February 9, 2016

    […] 18. Sicario: Although the characters and story could use some more fine tuning, the production is absolutely impeccable. Fantastic acting and cinematography all around, and a phenomenal movie in terms of building tension. […]

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