Thursday, October 1, 2015

Movie with Abe: Sicario

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Released September 18, 2015

Some films put all their cards out on the table at the beginning, explaining to audiences just what story it is that they’re telling. Others shroud their plots in secrecy, eager for audiences to be kept in suspense as long as possible, piecing together the puzzle of just what is happening along with the protagonist. Both can work well, but they can also be frustrating, particularly the latter approach, which means that audiences need to be invested enough in what is clear to want to discover more. As a film, “Sicario” has some strong points but definitely suffers as a result of the direction from which it spins its story.

“Sicario” opens with FBI Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) arriving as part of a hostage rescue team to a home in Chandler, Arizona. No hostages are found, but the gruesome discovery of countless bodies housed in the walls of the house and a devastating explosion cause the event to merit serious agency consideration as the onslaught of very bad things. Macer is then quickly appointed to an interagency task force led by the reckless and mysterious Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), who sits in meetings with a t-shirt and flip-flops, and his quieter, more intimidating associate Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). Throughout it all, Macer has no idea what is going on, and continually says so, as her two new friends lead her on a treacherous tour of more than one country with unknown but certainly devious aims ahead.

There is an intensity to “Sicario” that works extremely well, and those moments are the few where the film’s lack of clarity does work to its advantage. One particularly tense scene set on the bridge between Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas is an early indicator of the film’s strengths, but unfortunately that is one of a few isolated moments that demonstrate that this film might be strong in concept and the execution of selected scenes, but the overall experience is not a cohesive or fully fleshed-out one. As an action film, it’s occasionally strong, but less so as a thriller. Blunt is always reliable but should have more to do than point a gun and ask questions, and Brolin and Del Toro, which exactly the right fits for their characters, have done better work in the past. I’m not sure that this film could have been better, but it’s far more suspenseful than it is satisfying.


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