Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Sicario

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Reviews - Sicario


Reviewed By Ian Payne

As the war of words between Republican presidential candidates about US relations with other countries escalates, it seemed appropriate, not to say topical, that Keswick Film Club should screen Sicario, a thriller set on the US/Mexican border.

The battle against the Mexican drugs cartels is just that, a battle. In Sicario, extreme action is taken against an increasingly extreme threat as due process and traditional policing methods are wholly inadequate to stem the tide of drugs entering the USA and the flow of money to the cartel leaders in the opposite direction.

A special team is put together. Josh Brolin plays Matt Graver, a maverick leader, who works for an unidentified and hazy arm of law enforcement, Benicio del Toro as Alejandro, a mysterious Hispanic fresh from working in Colombia and Emily Blunt as Kate Macer, an FBI team leader. It starts to sound all too familiar.

The film promised so much yet failed to deliver on many levels. On the plus side, cinematographer, Roger Deakins, captured some truly stunning images of Mexican cityscapes and the arid Texan landscape, particularly at dusk - images which were enhanced by a powerful soundtrack, which built up an air of tension as action started to unfold.

Director Denis Villeneuve also managed to achieve scenes of dramatic tension, particularly as the team and its taskforce crossed the border back into the USA in a convoy of 4x4s – the traffic jam on the Bridge of the Americas was a genuine highlight.

Sadly Villeneuve didn't sustain that level of engagement, slipping all too easily into stereotypical shoot 'em up action and an over-reliance on the technology. For much of the final scenes we saw the action unfold through night vision cameras – pretty much the sort of thing you see in TV adverts for computer games like Call of Duty.

Director Villeneuve cast Emily Blunt as Kate because he felt that her screen presence was such that she would be credible as a female SWAT team leader. Despite her best efforts, the script put her in the position of being the team's moral compass and her attempts to rein in the excesses of Matt and Alejandro were always going to fail. They were just louder and stronger than she was.

Villeneuve posed the question 'do we have to become monsters to take on the monsters?' Whether that justified the (thankfully off screen) torture of suspects, the rapidly rising body count and the dismissal of Kate's justifiable but futile concerns is debateable.
We probably know where Donald Trump stands on that one though.

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