24 September 2015 | hamish-25851
Tense, intelligent drama, with thriller overtones
The badlands of the US - Mexico border and the viciousness of the drug trade running across it sets the background and the tone for this movie. It's grim. Human life is very cheap and the movie doesn't flinch from showing consequences. There are definitely some scenes that are not for the faint hearted, but there is nothing gratuitous here. If anything - despite the subject matter - the film goes out of its way to avoid Hollywood heroics.
Emily Blunt does an amazing job portraying Kate Macy, a career policewoman heading a SWAT team. Her accent slips slightly a couple of times, but otherwise she's utterly believable as born and raised in the deep south of the US. Kate is a fundamentally decent, honorable human being, trying to the right thing in a world where the rule book doesn't seem to work any more. She's smart, tough, and experienced - but right from the start of the movie, it's clear that she's in over her head.
The tension never lets up. An attack could come at any moment, from any direction. Anything could be a trap. All of it, no matter how extreme something is, plays as real. The director manages scenes expertly to avoid any clean and easy action movie clichés, and it pays off enormously as the movie goes on.
It's also a highly intelligent movie, made for an intelligent audience. It doesn't lay things out on a plate. Instead you have to pay attention and you have to think, just as Kate has to - because her first mistake could be her last.
Staging, costuming, sets, cinematography, and lighting are all perfect. Some airborne shots in particular stand out as both daring and stunningly original, clearly showing just how harsh the landscape is, while managing to propel the story forward - without showing anyone, no less. This part of the movie is in the "As good as it gets" category. The only part that I didn't like (and the reason that this doesn't get a 10 from me) was the music. It's used deliberately to heighten tension during some scenes which would otherwise break the feel of the movie, and generally it's done well, but some scenes are spoiled with a There Will Be Blood styled screech. It's really not needed, especially since Sicario's own score manages to build or maintain tension quite successfully in other parts of the movie while remaining low-key.
To my mind, this is much more of a drama than it is a thriller. It's certainly not an action movie. The acting from the support cast is exactly what it needs to be - good in general, and great when a minor character is the focal point - but look closely at how much Benicio del Toro manages to do with no dialogue and not even all that much movement. Simply amazing.
This is a great movie to see if you want to be challenged.