Film review: Sicario

(Lionsgate)

(Lionsgate)

Slow, shuddered breaths and the release of tension in my jaw. Those are a couple of the aftereffects of Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s gripping and intense new film, “Sicario,” that straddles the American/Mexican border as officials on both sides of the conflict try to defeat the cartel.

The film follows Kate Macy (Emily Blunt) after she discovers a bungalow of horrors and is recruited by the C.I.A. to track down the cartel members responsible for countless deaths and the increased tension between governments. Led by a “true American” cowboy (Josh Brolin) and an enigmatic suit-wearing Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), Kate is pushed further into the so-called “land of wolves,” where she witnesses the effects of top-down deconstruction and exploitation of the Mexican people by the American government. The film focuses mainly on the lack of control faced by Kate throughout her journey and the people who are seemingly in complete dominance.

Unflinching in the grimness and application of this timely story, “Sicario” stands tallest when its characters are up to their necks in despair. Villeneuve has approached these murky waters before, particularly in “Incendies” and 2013’s Oscar-nominated “Prisoners,” but he brings a new spectrum of political greyness as he elevates screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s material.

All of the actors are in top form in the excellent cast with Del Toro and Blunt working brilliantly as opposite sides of the same blood-soaked coin. An intimidating soundtrack and the beautiful lensing of cinematographer Roger Deakins coalesce together in a way that makes for one of the greatest all-around packages to come to theatres this year.

And it functions as a timely one at that. What truly works are all of the integrated cogs that mesh together for Villeneuve’s argument. Relevant in its depiction of lives surrounding both sides of the border, the film presents a justification that wholly believes that the Mexican people have been severely affected by the “war on drugs” so adamantly brought up in news today. While the issue cannot be faulted solely to one government it raises the issue of the American ignorance dominating many political stances (for example, Donald Trump’s idea to force the Mexican government to build a literal wall between the two countries).

“Sicario” is not an easy watch. It is unrelenting in its grim demeanour and steadfast political views. Do not let that deter you though, the film is a rewarding watch with a thick dose of tension and spectacular direction that will sink in and immerse you into its bloody, unforgiving world that will keep you thinking long after you leave the theatre. 5/5 Loops.