Friday, September 11, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: SICARIO (2015)

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MOVIE INFO

In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent [Emily Blunt] is enlisted by an elite government task force official [Josh Brolin] to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past [Benicio Del Toro], the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive. (C) Lionsgate

Rating: R
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve
Written By: Taylor Sheridan
In Theaters: Sep 18, 2015 Limited
Runtime: 2 hr.
Lionsgate - Official Site


SICARIO OPENS IN MALAYSIA ON THE 17th OF SEPTEMBER TO FIND OUT WHEN IT OPENS NEAR YOU CLICK HERE!


This is Kate. She wants to right all the wrongs in the world. Then she gets involved in the war on drugs. ©Lionsgate Films

Another movie about the drugs and the war on drugs?

Yeah, that's what I was thinking but then I watched the trailer and it didn't seem like your usual war on drugs sort of movie. Also from the trailer you mostly watch Emily Blunt so you wonder who's the hitman then? Is it Benicio Del Toro's character? But then why is he sitting in an SUV with the cops and not in a handcuff but has his own semi-automatic instead? But before we get there let's look at where this movie takes place in. 

The movie primarily takes place around towns on the U.S.-Mexican border where on one side there are incredibly dangerous and determined Mexican Drug Cartels and on the other the U.S. trying very hard to control not only the constant migration of Mexicans illegally but the illegal smuggling of drugs by the cartel which use any and every means possible to get their goods into the U.S. The Cartels influence and presence in these towns that sit just a stones throw away from the U.S. border is so deep and damaging that there is almost no part of commerce, industry or even government that they don't have their dirty fingers in. And the way they control their territories and to show their strength is so violent that even war veterans would be surprised, they regular kill their enemies right out in the open, they would strip their enemies and hang them on street lights and highways and they would target anyone and everyone. Their story is a fascinating and incredibly horrendous one and you can begin your education of them with the help of the ever helpful Wikipedia page for it. I have from time to time read up articles and news reports about the Mexican Drug Cartels and can only pray for those that still live in those towns and hope that things change soon.

Okay, so back to the movie in question. Directed by a French-Canadian man named Denis Villeneuve who has apparently done quite a number of award-winning stuff that I've never seen Sicario is his second major Hollywood production after his film Prisoners (2013). Mr. Villeneuve has also gotten a Mr Roger Deakins as his Director of Photography for Sicario. Mr Deakins worked with Mr VIlleneuve on his 2013 film Prisoners which won for Mr Deakins and the film the award for Best Cinematography at the Oscars as well as a bunch of other awards.

This is Matt. He's a special advisor, a consultant of sorts. He has more power to get things done than the way his clothes suggests. ©Lionsgate Films


OKAY SO HERE'S THE WARNING WHERE I TELL YOU ABOUT WHAT I REMEMBER WATCHING WHICH MEANS THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. DON'T SAY I DIDN'T TELL YOU.

The focus of Sicario is on FBI Agent Kate Macy (Emily Blunt) an agent tasked to the missing persons and kidnapping department in the FBI (I think that's what they call it). And you're following her and her team on a raid of a suspected location where the FBI believe a local branch of a Mexican Drug Cartel is holding a group of people they've kidnapped in their attempt to show force. They crash into the front of the house surprising the man in the living room which the first agent out of the vehicle dispatches easily and begin to check the house methodically taking out any threat. In the last room, Kate narrowly misses getting shot at as she manages to duck in time then shoot the man that tried to kill her. As her partner Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) comes in to check on her and then take a look at the hole in the wall that was almost a hole in his partner he notices something. As he takes a closer look then rips apart the drywall what he reveals to be inside the walls disgusts him enough that both he and Kate rush out to empty their guts. The find hidden in the walls of the house the decomposing bodies of the cartel's victims, their bodies have been mutilated and their hands and legs tied, their heads wrapped in plastic bags. Every wall in the house is filled with bodies.

As the forensic team goes around the house looking for evidence and trying to count the bodies, Kate's superior at the FBI Jennings (Victor Garber) shows up. Upon asking Kate whether the bodies are of the kidnapped people they were looking for Kate tells him they are not. Outside a couple of uniformed policemen are going through a little shed looking for more evidence until one of them discover a door in the floor with a padlock, he calls for a bolt cutter to cut the lock. When he opens it a huge explosion blows them to pieces as well as flooring Kate and everyone inside the house. When Kate stumbles outside to see what's happened she spots spots the policeman's severed arm on the grass and empties her guts again.

This is Silvio and he's important much later on in the film. ©Lionsgate Films

The next day Kate and Reggie have been called in to the FBI and they sit outside a conference room while inside a group of men are clearly discussing them. Kate peers over her shoulder looking at each of the men and her gaze lands on a man in very casual clothes wearing a pair of sandals. Reggie thinks they may have done something wrong, that maybe they didn't do things according to procedure. Kate tells him they did everything by the book. After what seems like an interminable wait Kate gets called in. Inside the men ask her a few questions professional and personal then she's told to wait outside. Inside, Jennings asks the man in the casual clothes if he's sure that he wants her instead of her partner who is an Iraqi war veteran. He says yes. They call Kate in again. Jennings introduces the casual man as Matt (Josh Brolin) a special adviser (or was it consultant) to the DoJ (Department of Justice). Matt tells her they are looking for special agents with unique skills to join his team for a special mission. That he needs her skills she's gained working for her department in his team. He tells her nothing more. She asks him for details of the mission but he avoids them and instead asks her if she thinks what happened the day before has any effect on the cartel's activities and wouldn't she for once be able to do something that would change things. She agrees to volunteer. Matt tells her to meet him at an air force base the next day. 

Meanwhile we meet Silvio (Maximiliano Hernández) and he's family. Silvio is a police officer and this morning he's woken by his son who asks him to take him to his football practice.

The next day Reggie and Kate make their way to the air force base but at the entrance the guard tells them that only Kate is allowed in. Inside Kate is driven to where Matt is, waiting for her next to a private jet. She's also introduced to Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) who Matt says is a lawyer from across the border. Alejandro says little. The three of them board the private jet and immediately Matt takes residence on the sofa and settles in for a nap. Alejandro sits across from Kate facing her. As the plane flies to their destination which Kate is told is El Paso both Matt and Alejandro are asleep. Kate sits taking in her surroundings and notices that Alejandro's hands are shivering. Suddenly Alejandro awakes with a start as if from a nightmare. Kate tries to find out more about him but his answers are short and cryptic.

This is Alejandro. He's not who he says he is and he doesn't fit any mold in particular. His motives become clear much, much later. ©Lionsgate Films

They arrive at their destination and Kate finds out that they've arrived in Juarez not El Paso. She follows Matt and Alejandro inside the air base into a briefing room where a man stands in front of a screen talking to a large group of burly men. Soldiers. The briefing is for a mission to enter into Juarez pick up something and then get back to the base. At the end of the briefing Kate confronts Matt again asking him what the mission really is and what she's there for. Matt tells her little and tells her she can stay at the base if she wants to. She relents and joins the mission. 

She gets into one of five black SUVs with Matt and Alejandro. The caravan drives fast past the immigration checks into Juarez where they are met with the local police who are providing escort for the team. They then drive into town and towards where the pick-up is supposed to happen. When they arrive Alejandro tells her to keep her eyes open that no one is to be trusted. She sees what they came to pick up, a man. As soon as the man is inside one of the other SUVs they move off. During the drive across the town center a voice calls in from one of the other SUVs that he's spotted a spotter car, a car that shouldn't be there but is tailing their progress. The call goes out to watch out for more, Kate spots another on her side. 

They caravan eventually gets to the border but the roads are bumper to bumper with cars. There's been an accident near the immigration gates. Instructions go out between the SUVs to watch out for anything suspicious. They know if the cartels are going to try anything this is where they'll do it. Alejandro tells Kate to take out her gun. Someone in another car spots a sedan with four men that look suspicious. Another spots another sedan with four more suspicious looking men. They wait for them to act first, the team have instructions to shoot to kill. Kate spots a gun barrel poking out from one of the cars. The team goes on high alert and several of the team members get out and surround one of the cars. Alejandro and a few others surround the other. Then one of the men in one of the cars comes out holding a gun. The others sit and wait but each holding their own weapon. Both teams are now in a standoff with both cars and their occupants. Alejandro talks to them asking them to stay calm, asking them if they want to die or live. They decide to fire. The team quickly kills all of them and gets back in the car and drive off. Matt comments that their deaths won't even make it to the newspapers. 

This is was incredibly intense. ©Lionsgate Films

Back at the base they started from Matt is inside with the person they've just picked up. The man claims he doesn't speak English. Matt tells him he's got someone he wants the man to meet. Alejandro meanwhile is outside having a drink of water when a man he sees a man he knows, they talk a while and when the man asks him if he's ready to go inside to talk to the person they've just picked up Alejandro tells him it's best he doesn't go in then he picks up a full barrel of water and goes in. Inside the man who is a relation of one of the cartel bosses recognizes immediately who Alejandro is and begins to look to Matt for help. The others that were in the room with Matt leave the room turning off the camera that's been running the whole time. 

Outside one of the team members takes Kate up onto the roof of the facility where he tells Kate to look through the binoculars towards Juarez. Kate sees explosions and tracers fly through the night sky as if the town is at war. 

Later Matt, Alejandro and Kate are driven to another location by Reggie when they arrive it's at a bus station. At the depot where the buses are sit hundreds of illegal Mexican immigrants. Alejandro approaches one of the men in charge and asks which groups have just come from certain locations. He tells the man to send the others on their way. When the others have been sent off he begins to ask the immigrant if any have been to the U.S. before and where. Kate is uneasy about all that's happened and when Reggie asks she has no answers for him. Reggie in his frustration calls for Matt. He asks Matt what's going on and why they're here, if he doesn't answer he'll leave. Kate chimes in and says the same thing. Matt tells them that they have information that the cartel has a tunnel system that connects Mexico and the U.S. and that they're here to find out from the immigrants where it might be. 

He says he's a lawyer but when he has a gun in his hand he's as cool as a cucumber. ©Lionsgate Films

The next day they meet at a motel where Matt is staying. The immigrants that Alejandro were talking to are there too. They believe they've identified the location of the tunnel. They've also identified the man in charge of the operation, a man named Manuel Diaz (Bernardo P. Saracino). Their plan is to affect his operations badly enough that he's called back to meet his boss. They identify his bank accounts and stake out the banks to wait for Manuel's people to show up to deposit his money. They spot what they're looking for when a woman comes into the bank. When she leaves the bank they arrest her and her partner and find in her bag several large rolls of cash. Eager to turn the arrest into a case she can take to court she goes in to the bank to talk to the manager despite Matt's instructions for her to stay put. Inside she finds out that Manuel has managed to deposit several million dollars, when she tells this to Matt and asks if she can take it to court he tells her it's a waste of her time. 

Disappointed and frustrated Kate and Reggie head to a pub for drinks. All throughout the evening a man constantly looks in Kate's direction. The man turns out to be Reggie's friend Ted (Jon Bernthal)The evening ends with Kate and Ted going back to Kate's apartment. But things take a different turn that what Kate expected when she spots the same rubber band used by the money launderers among Ted's things. She goes for her gun but he spots her and they fight but Ted overpowers her and sits on her while strangling her neck. Just then Alejandro appears and points a gun at Ted's head. Later when Matt arrives, Ted is brutally interrogated about who else on the police force is working for the cartel. 

Now with his money frozen by the courts and his attempt to send a message to the authorities by taking out Kate a failure Manuel is in a bind. Matt and his teams surveillance of him have identified that he'll soon be called to meet his boss a man named Fausto Alarcon (Julio Cedillo).The team plans their attack on the tunnel.

Sometimes he even acts like a CIA agent. ©Lionsgate Films

The night of the attack Kate again confronts Matt on the legality of what they're doing but Matt dodges her questions and gives her the option to either join the team or stay back. Both her and Reggie join up. The raiding team are dropped off several kilometers from their target and their approach is assisted by a drone. They make their way they in total darkness assisted by their night-vision equipment. When they get to their tunnel they wait and watch for activity. 

Meanwhile we discover that Silvio the state police officer we met earlier is a mule for the cartel, helping them ship their drugs from one location to the tunnel.

And Manuel is on his way to meet Fausto.

The team begin their mission. They enter the tunnel quietly at first killing the men they encounter with knives then when they're spotted all hell breaks loose. In the confusion Kate is separated from the rest of the team and Reggie and she ends up in a warehouse where earlier Silvio and a worker were trying to empty out the boot of his patrol car when they were interrupted by Alejandro. Kate's appearance surprises Alejandro and when she points a gun at him demanding he let Silvio go Alejandro shoots her in the chest. As she writhes on the floor in pain he tells her to never point a gun at him again and for her to go back through the tunnel. When Kate finally manages to get up Alejandro and Silvio have taken the patrol car and gone. 

It's hard to trust people when they don't answer your questions. ©Lionsgate Films

Back at the other end of the tunnel the mission is over and the team have gathered but Reggie notices that Kate isn't back but just as Matt instructs the team to head back in to find her Kate appears and walks straight towards Matt swinging at his face. Reggie tries to help her but he's stopped by one of Matt's men. Matt easily subdues Kate and tells her to calm down. Matt looking at her realizes that she's seen something she shouldn't have. 

Meanwhile, Alejandro and Silvio drive through the dark night guided by the voice of the drone operator who informs Alejandro where Manuel is. Alejandro instructs Silvio to head in Manuel's direction. When they catch up to Manuel, Alejandro instructs Silvio to turn on his sirens and instruct Manuel to pull over. When Manuel finally stops he tells Manuel to get out of the car, remove his gun and raise his jacket. Then Alejandro instructs Silvio to get out. As Silvio stands by his door and Manuel is blinded by the patrol car's headlights Alejandro shoots Silvio in the back then Manuel in his leg. He walks over to Manuel and tells him they're going to meet his boss. 

When they reach Fausto's mansion he instructs Manuel to drive slowly. When Manuel reaches the outside perimeter they're met with a single guard whom Alejandro kills right after the man tells Manuel that he knows who he is. Nearing the mansion Alejandro tells Manuel to drive slowly. As Manuel's car slowly crawls its way towards the main gates three more guards stop him but as one of them peers into the car to confirm it is Manuel he sees that Manuel has his hand on his neck which is bleeding profusely. As they are preoccupied with what they see Alejandro kills all three in seconds.

Alejandro may not answer questions but he does know how to get answers. ©Lionsgate Films

Alejandro makes his way inside the mansion killing any man he encounters. Past the kitchen he finally spots his target, Fausto Alarcon the man responsible for killing his wife and daughter and destroying their bodies with acid. Fausto is at the dinner table with his family. He calmly walks up to them and takes a seat across from them. He asks Fausto if his children speak English when Fausto says no they speak in English. Words are exchange but in the end Fausto realizes Alejandro is here for revenge and asks Alejandro not to kill him in front of his children. Alejandro kills his children first then his wife and as Fausto sits there stunned by what's just happened Alejandro tells him to finish his meal. Before Fausto can begin Alejandro shoots him. 

The next day Kate is standing on her veranda smoking when she hears Alejandro's voice coming from inside her apartment. She goes in slowly knowing, realizing who Alejandro is. Alejandro sits in her living room holding her gun in his gloved hand. He's there for a reason, he needs her signature on a document that states that everything that they've done that she's participated in has been done legally and by the book. She refuses. Alejandro puts her own gun under her chin and tells her it'll look like a suicide. She signs. When he leaves he takes apart her gun and throws them around the room. He tells her to move to a small quiet town that the town she lives in now is filled with wolves and she isn't a wolf.

When he's gone she assembles her gun again and heads for her veranda again intent on shooting Alejandro as he walks away. Alejandro sensing what she plans to do stops and turns and just stands there looking at her. She doesn't shoot.

The end. 

I've actually left a lot of it out. But that's basically what happened. You really have to watch it to appreciate it. 

The war on drugs is very well equipped. ©Lionsgate Films


If ever there was a movie that I could say was tense and gripping this is it.

Yup. This movie was from start to finish a gripping and tense piece of story telling. There's no other way to put it. The way that Villeneuve has woven together the story, extracted the performances from the cast and worked with Mr Deakins camera-work and of course with Mr Jóhann Jóhannsson music in the background each scene was just dense with tension. 

The performances delivered by the main cast of characters were just amazing in my opinion. Emily Blunts delivery of an idealistic FBI Agent wanting to do things the right way but finding along the way that the right way doesn't always deliver was just perfect. You can literally feel her conflicting thoughts and emotions off the screen. Josh Brolin's delivery of a brash and almost aloof character despite the situation is almost surreal but it makes sense when you think about it. Take the business too seriously, empathize with any part of the situation and it'll probably break anyone immediately. He's handling it the best way he can. But when situations get serious they way he switches over was just brilliant. The scene where Kate rushes at him and takes a swing and how he wrestles her down was very good. Then there's Benicio Del Toro's portrayal of Alejandro. Absolutely brilliant, you have no idea who he is from the start right up till the end of the tunnel raid. You know he isn't who he claims to be but you're not certain of who he is. His calm and almost paternal manner when he addresses Kate, his cold and brutal way when he interrogates and then his cool and methodical actions when he has a gun in his hand were just amazing. The switch from one mode to another is so smooth is just a joy to watch. These are the two that will amaze you as you watch the film.

Silvio's part in the movie is about to end. ©Lionsgate Films

Then of course there's Mr Deakins cinematography. There's only one way to describe it. Perfect. Every scene is just perfectly composed. You're never distracted from what you should be seeing, what your attention should be focused on. I wouldn't mind watching it again.

And Jóhann Jóhannsson's score for each scene drives the tension so well that as much as you hear it you don't actually notice it. He's done a perfect job of complimenting what's happening on screen.

The whole focus of this movie is on the story and the main characters namely Kate and Alejandro. You're never distracted by much else. Everything that happens around them serves to focus your attention on them and what they do and what's happening to them. 

A one man army to take down a cartel Jefe. Probably the least believable thing in the movie. But still very well done. ©Lionsgate Films

Honestly, this was one of the more perfect pieces of film making I can say I've watched this year. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. And I was watching it on less that 3 hours of sleep. I had to fuel myself with a huge tub of popcorn and pretty sizable cup of Coke. I was so drawn into the story that I didn't notice I'd finished them both before the movie ended.

This is a film I'd happily recommend anyone go watch but it isn't for everyone. If you don't like violent scenes or gruesome ones then you may want to skip it but I'd suggest you don't. This movie is the most realistic portrayal of the drug war happening in Mexico right now. But I do have to say as violent as it is it isn't done gratuitously, Villeneuve hasn't done it to shock you. The violence serves to emphasize the situation that Kate finds herself in, it becomes the fodder for her conflict. The reason why she agrees to go along with Matt instead of staying back, instead of asking to do it by the book.

I would not be surprised if this film and that man there gets an Oscar nod for this film. ©Lionsgate Films

I'm going to give Sicario a 4.2 out 5. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and wouldn't mind watching it again. And I think all of you should give this film a chance too. 

Have a look at the trailer. 

video


SICARIO: THE MEXICAN HITMAN IS DISTRIBUTED BY TGV PICTURES IN MALAYSIA SO DO HEAD ON OVER TO TGV.COM.MY TO GET YOUR TICKETS WHEN IT OPENS. (Or if there's isn't a TGV cinema near you go see it there. It's really worth it.)



THANK YOU TGV PICTURES FOR LETTING ME WATCH SICARIO. THE BEST THING I'VE SEEN FROM YOU GUYS YET. KEEP BRINGING IN MOVIES LIKE THIS!!

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