Cinematographer Roger Deakins is hands down the best in the business, and he’s been nominated for an Oscar twelve times. But he’s never won. While it’s certainly not a travesty on the level of a crime against humanity, it is still a fairly egregious fault, and if there’s any justice in the world, he’ll finally get his due reward withSicario— the brilliant, visceral, immaculately-directed film by Denis Villeneuve (who also directed the similarly-excellent Prisoners, also with Deakins as cinematographer).
Chronicling the harrowing ins and outs of the US/Mexico border drug war, Sicariofeatures Emily Blunt as Kate Mercer– an FBI agent who is thrust into the unenviable task of “volunteering” for a role on an inter-agency team that’s working to bring down a Mexican kingpin.
Kate is no stranger to field work. The movie opens with a harrowing sequence that results in her discovering dozens of decomposing bodies stuffed into the walls of a suburban Phoenix home. But field work on the gritty streets of Juarez, Mexico, is another matter entirely, and Villeneuve and Deakins throw the audience right into the middle of the maelstrom with a level of excellence rarely seen in movies anymore.
Blunt anchors Sicario with the same action-film excellence that she first displayed in last year’s Edge of Tomorrow. Deftly able to bounce between quiet, character-driven moments and those of slam-bang high intensity, Blunt proves yet again that she’s an acting force to be reckoned with. Josh Brolin, as Blunt’s enigmatic team leader, and Benicio Del Toro, as a shadowy accomplice, also turn in spine-tingling performances.
The first-time script by actor Taylor Sheridan (Sons of Anarchy) is a riveting mix of sweeping set pieces and also seemingly innocuous asides that eventually evolve into major plot points. Sicario is very smartly written. It’s an astounding debut– instantly among the most intricate and excellent scripts of the year.
It’s Deakins’ camera work, however, that pushes Sicario into rare air. Whether he’s filming tiny dust particles as they float next to a sunny window, aerial shots of the unforgiving Mexican landscape, or a first-person perspective from the rumbling back of a Mexican police jeep, each and every shot almost seems almost poetic.
Sicario is a brutal tale of justice, revenge, and corruption– a captivating and utterly transfixing movie that has already jumped to the head of the pack this fall. It’s as good as they come.