Sicario Screen 30 articles



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  • Even after Zero Dark Thirty barely obscured its White House–authorized message of “all’s fair in the War on Terror,” Hollywood still manages to convince audiences that political stuff is just too complicated to understand, much less do anything about. Funny thing, though: it turns out that this faux moral ambiguity, viewed from the reassuring distance of commercial cinema, is so damned entertaining.

  • [The film's] atmospherics are stymied again and again by Villeneuve's need to hold the audience's hand, despite Blunt already having been given this job, with the camera repeatedly zeroing in on various details—Blunt's face in a bank, a particular man at a bar, a Mexican policeman—that will soon become salient, a form of obvious telegraphing that does at least dovetail with the film's heavy-handed approach to its subject matter.

  • Sicario, with its barely credible plot, risible dialogue and politically dubious treatment of the US state’s sanguinary attempts to stem the flow of drugs over the Mexican border, does not even warrant a detailed take-down.

  • What became lost [at its Cannes premiere] as critics endorsed the most vapid sort of formalism was the shallow and exploitative nature of the material itself. While the film’s defenders extolled the film’s narrative “ambiguities,” it soon becomes clear that certain strategically placed red herrings only temporarily divert us from this drug-cartel melodrama’s essentially conventional and reactionary tenor.

  • This is imagistically sophisticated storytelling; this is the work of talented people. This is also what is so obscene about Sicario, which not only matches Prisoners in terms of bogus dramaturgy and basic disregard for the laws of cinematic plausibility but also tops it as far as the ugliness of what’s being put across with such immaculate skill.

  • By the end, Kate appears less and less like a genuine character and instead a stand-in for what the film seems to see as a feminized American people who need masculine, militarized leadership. Supporters of a military coup in the United States would love Sicario, as would politicians who grandstand about the need to close the US-Mexican border.

  • Disappointingly, Sicario complies to a set of preordained archetypes: the maverick senior agent who loves the sound of his own voice; the shady defector with a personal vendetta; the determined rookie who still believes in doing things by the book. The longer you watch this intriguing three-way dynamic unfold, the more predictable the character's actions (the consequences of which are almost never addressed) become.

  • There’s not much fault to find with Sicario on the level of craft or performances, just its rather sputtering momentum, and the lack of a higher purpose. It’s admirable that the film’s taking its subject seriously; it’s just not enough. Actor-turned-scribe Taylor Sheridan spells his points out too rhetorically about the desperate measures being demanded by the Mexico problem, and does something dismaying every 10 minutes or so.

  • Excited as I hope I sound, the scene I’m describing comes from one of the films here I’ve admired less, for two reasons. First, because it so underserves its central cop character, played by Emily Blunt and characterised as a mulish old-fashioned goodie who can’t adapt to the black-ops realpolitik of Josh Brolin’s smiling spook, let aloneBenicio del Toro’s unsmiling Mexican assassin. Second, its critique of the failed war on drugs is only skin-deep.

  • I found this one essentially banal. I’m quite happy to watch Emily Blunt frowning for two hours, which is basically what she does. The idea that she’s the moral center to this film, saying, “Should we be doing this?” So what? Is that all they can come up with? I found it very laborious and sub-Michael Mann. I could see that topic, and indeed that script, could be given a different dimension somehow.

  • Ace DP Roger Deakins provides every image with a sense of crisp texture... But Sicario has nothing fresh to say about how Mexico’s drug war will inevitably have long-term implications for the United States. Villeneuve simply suggests that America’s only protective measure is to become just as ugly, murderous, and brutal as the cartels themselves, a pitiless and debilitating message.

  • Aside from that performance and Roger Deakins’s cinematography, which is full of desert sizzle and searchlight-generated shadow, I’m not buying this movie; and I’ve seen it twice. Mostly because Villeneuve and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan aren’t selling more than a tautological action movie with the dread and body count of a horror film. A friend and I were just saying about Villeneuve the other day that he really doesn’t care what he’s directing as long as it shows off his abs.

  • Sight & Sound: Samuel Wigley
    October 02, 2015 | November 2015 Issue (pp. 89-90)

    Sicario offers neither the scope nor the depth to give more than a broad-brush picture of the war on drugs and how the violence and corruption have spread upwards beyond the Rio Grande. There's nothing to balance out its vision of Mexico as a no-go zone where drug wars rage and fire must be fought with fire.

  • Best Villeneuve film I've seen, which isn't saying much. At least two "crackerjack" suspense sequences, and a lot of tech jubilation with Deakins kicking out the jams with the digital technology. But it's the drug-cartel movie equivalent of a zombie movie in which none of the non-zombie characters has ever seen a zombie movie. "Whoa, the war on drugs is an inescapable labyrinth of betrayal, corruption, and unspeakable violence? WHO KNEW?"

  • A nasty film about the drug war on the US-Mexico border that flirts with fascism and artiness, succumbing to the former. The film suggests that the best way for Donald Trump to convince the Mexican government to pay for building a wall would be to tell them it would keep out the CIA.

  • With each film, Villeneuve proves his talent for crafting extremely effective visceral spectacles, ensnaring the viewer through expert engineering of mood and action. Yet, with each film, he undermines his achievement by attempting to aggrandize his narratives with weighty undercurrents that are, in fact, desperately vacuous. While Sicario is no exception, unlike the insufferably pretentious Enemy, it delivers a constant, exhilarating stream of elaborate and exquisitely photographed thrills.

  • [Its] panicked pitch is tough to sustain across two hours of beautifully wrought moral turpitude that nonetheless doesn't contain many stunning revelations... Still, this is an involving, grown-up film from a director whose muscular technique continues to impress: one might call it pulp in the same manner one would a plate of minced meat.

  • [Villeneuve] directs Sicario as though it were a horror film—an impression underscored by an opening sequence that finds Kate and her team stumbling upon a house full of corpses wrapped in sheets of plastic. In the end, that baseline physical revulsion—decapitated bodies, corpses hung from highway overpasses, arms blown off by booby traps—turns to moral horror. Perhaps not as powerfully as one would wish, but it still leaves an impression and a black-coffee aftertaste.

  • There's a Hitchockian musicality to Villeneuve's propulsive artistry. Jóhann Jóhannsson's score, layered atop images of vehicles gliding past border control and government agents worming their way through a tunnel connecting El Paso to Juarez, is just one of many elements that conjure a relentlessly terrifying realm of despair. Even the film's pregnant pauses hum with an unbearably anxious vitality.

  • Villeneuve delivers a strong, nuanced take on the increasing militarisation of United States police forces and the war on drugs with enough substance to appease long-time fans and enough bells and whistles to please a wider, less cinephilic audience. While remaining a sustained effort overall, clear meddling from producers, serving to undercut Villeneuve’s previously demonstrated mastery over complex plotting and structure, holds his latest back from reaching its full potential.

  • Sicario doesn’t have much to contribute to political dialogue besides the sentiment, ʻYou probably shouldn’t trust anyone in the CIA,ʼ which should already be staggeringly obvious. This large ideological caveat aside, the film is relentlessly effective at keeping viewer nerves frayed; the ominous slow dollies, zooms, close-ups and other acts of directorial aggression slathered over Prisoners work much better with halfway credible material.

  • Riveting to watch (if a bit bombastic), but I'm having real trouble finding layers of self-awareness here. The message that, in these parlous times, we need more loose-cannon ruthlessness and less respect for due process seems even more emphatic than the endorsement of vigilantism in Prisoners, and the bait-and-switch is non-existent since Blunt's character, despite being our identification figure, seems irrelevant and out of her depth from the start

  • Having enjoyed ARRIVAL, we went back in time and watched director Denis Villeneuve’s previous hit. SICARIO. It’s very impressive, but we were less convinced by the “human killing machine” tropes which climax it than we had been by the hellish drug war developments of the first two acts. Shot by the always-impressive Roger Deakins, it has a more classical style than ARRIVAL with several of the impressive dusk scenes that distinguished NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.

  • As in the films of Clint Eastwood (whose “Mystic River” exuded an obvious influence on “Prisoners”) and Michael Mann, the violence in Villeneuve’s work is savage and startling, but never overstated or sensationalized, and every bullet fired ripples with consequences for both the victim and the trigger man (or, as the case may be, woman).

  • Sicario mines the same dismal tit-for-tat trajectories as Prisoners but spares us the thudding ironies. Its moral strength lies in Sheridan and Villeneuve’s resistance to false resolutions and their insistence on maintaining a status quo of controlled chaos.

  • Sicario struck a nerve for me, less as an up-to-the-minute treatment of American drug war, and more for Villeneuve’s talent for inducing under-the-skin malaise and angst... Villeneuve orchestrates action scenes with confidence—including a traffic-jam standoff, the sort of open-air showdown that’s usually a macho calling-card for Michael Mann wannabes—but these too he plays less for blammo kicks than as adventures no one really wants to be happening.

  • When Sicario premiered at Cannes in May, some critics dismissed it as just another drug-war yarn, comparing it unfavorably to Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic. (Look for up-to-date Narcos references this week.) That may well have been what first-time screenwriter Taylor Sheridan—an actor best known for playing Deputy Chief David Hale on Sons Of Anarchy—had in mind, but the final product turned out bigger and more resonant than that.

  • From a handful of recent features, Denis Villeneuve has quickly become known for his almost comically portentous atmosphere. But here, with the help of legendary DP Roger Deakins (who also shot Villeneuve’s gorgeous and hysterically grim Prisoners), the director finally melds that sensibility with precise, pulpy thriller mechanics in a way that probably nobody’s done since Fincher with Seven.

  • Sicario, which is currently playing in general release, is one of the most formally accomplished things at the multiplexes, a triumph of cinematography, lighting, production, and sound design. Taken together, these qualities establish an unsettling atmosphere that goes a long way in giving the movie its power.

  • An alternate reading of the film reveals Macer’s arc to be an authentic representation of a woman’s experience in a male-dominated career, in which she is doubly constrained by the limits and stipulations of her job. In Sicario, Macer’s refusal to do anything outside the law is an ingrained behaviour that echoes women’s experiences in the workplace, in which a woman’s job-related risk-taking is held under far more scrutiny than that of her male peers.

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