Dark, morally ambiguous and beautiful.

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

The latest film from emerging director Denis Villeneuve who leaves the themes of kidnapping in his previous outing - the 2013 film Prisoners - to tackle the seedy world of cartels in Mexico with Sicario. A bleak look at the problems of the drug war and all those caught in between, on both sides of the fence.

Sicario begins in Arizona, as a SWAT team are performing a raid on a residential home, headed up by Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) who is part of an FBI task force to find kidnapped hostages. Only instead of anyone living inside, they find dead bodies - lotís of them - encased within the walls and floors of this property. Itís quickly surmised that this is the work of a Mexican cartel, and Kateís bosses are called in to assess the scene - only for a booby trapped basement cellar to explode, killing two officers.

Kate believing she is to be reprimanded for her actions is called in for a meeting between her bosses and government figure Matt (Josh Brolin) who in fact wants to offer her a position in their newly sanctioned joint-operation. Accepting the offer, Kate is introduced to the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) whose motives are slowly revealed over the course of Sicario - together the trio head to Juarez in Mexico and begin their dangerous operation against a cartel.

The first thing that will be readily apparent about Sicario, is how dark the material is. Youíll find no good versus evil, culminating in a revelation that brings the whole film together - no, Sicario very much just exists in a state of grey, showcasing characters and situations that prove what a fruitless effort the Ďwar on drugsí truly is. What helps this is the tension Sicario manages to consistently build up - tension that director Denis Villeneuve has been known for on his previous films - balanced with some excellent sound design culminating in Sicario imbuing an atmosphere that will grab your attention and never let go.

But what pushes Sicario really over the top into a technical marvel is its cinematography by veteran Roger Deakins. If Sicario doesnít get an Oscar nod for this alone Iíd be shocked, to turn boring scenery into something consistently interesting that grabs your attention is an art form - one Sicario nails in practically every scene. From travelling in a car to soldiers walking in the night, nothing is ever visually lackluster and itís something Sicario should be applauded for. Itís a bit of a shame then that in terms of plot, Sicario really doesnít offer anything in the story department that you havenít seen in every other film that deals with the Mexican cartel.

But what Sicario does offer is a standout acting performance. Whilst Emily Blunt (playing Kate) is the film's naive protagonist and our introduction through this seedy world - she is just a little too one-note for my liking. Itís Benicio Del Toroís character Alejandro that just steals the show, every scene he is in will captivate you - showcasing one of his best performances to date and easily worthy of an Oscar nod.

To elaborate on his character would venture too much into spoiler territory - as Sicario really benefits going into the movie blind - you may be left confused over where Alejandro sits with you morally, but it's a performance and character that once again fits right into the grey world Sicario has built.

Sicario is definitely not a movie if youíre looking for a feel-good story with friends this weekend or expecting the next Die Hard. But Sicario offers pulse-pounding tension in a morally ambiguous world, told through a technical masterclass in filmmaking with a standout performance from Benicio Del Toro that is worthy of admission alone.

Sicario is currently available to buy on Blu-ray & DVD via Amazon or on-demand via Amazon Video.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    24th September 2015

  • 4 Out of 5 Stars
  • Plot bit thin

    Lead character one-note

  • Cinematography

    Tension

    Sound design

    Benicio Del Toro

Film Info

Sicario Sicario
Rating: 15
Release Date: 8th October
Runtime: 2 hr 1 mins
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya & Victor Garber

  • Savages
  • No Country For Old Men
  • Traffic

No, contains scenes of gun violence, torture and death throughout.

The first film wrote by Taylor Sheridan of Sons Of Anarchy fame (he played Deputy Chief David Hale).

The word "Sicario" means "Hitman" in Spanish.