Sicario

FBI Am Confused

Have you ever been abroad and sat down at a restaurant and you look at the menu and recognise nothing on it? You scan the menu and decide on anything that sounds OK. Gafikalonis? Sure, I’ll go for one of them, and maybe some Padesh whatever that is.

The food is brought to your table and it looks amazing. You start eating and you can’t quite work out whether you like it or not. It does look and taste good but something in the back of your mind tells you not to eat it. Perhaps it’s because you still don’t understand what this food is really about? It could be pork testicles and ferret kidneys in a passion fruit and mustard sauce for all you know.

This is how I feel about Sicario. It looks great and it sounds even better. That aside; I don’t really know what Sicario is.

Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) is a member of a hostage response team who consistently excels at everything she does whilst also being a firm idealist. When her team is attacked by an ever more ambitious drug dealer from Mexico she is offered a chance to catch the guys responsible. She joins a team lead by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) that consists of battle hardened grunts and the sharply dressed but mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro).

All makes sense so far, but this is where the problems start. The film’s focus is building tension and drama, which it does exceedingly well, but to the detriment of the story. We never really find out who this drug dealer is or how far reaching his control is. Instead he is this anonymous figure, a shadow being hunted, a bit like ISIS or Al Qaeda.

It wouldn’t be a problem if it was just the enemy who we knew little about but it’s also Brolin’s and Del Toro’s characters that are kept in the dark. This forms part of the plot as Kate becomes more and more suspicious about the motivations of the team but by the time we learn anything about these characters it’s too late and the film is running through it’s finale.

Presumably the aim is to keep you guessing and keep up the tension but for me I was just confused as to what it was I was consuming. The ending for me is more problematic than that though. The root of this is actually the very beginning of the film which states that in Mexico the word for hitman is “Sicario”. There is absolutely no reference to a hitman until the films conclusion and even then it’s not exactly clear, in fact, it was only when I was driving home that it suddenly clicked. So now I think about how these very loose strings tie up I have to say that the ending was highly disappointing.

Still… it does look good. It’s cinematography is evocative enough to bring about a sense of unease at every step. the golden colour of every shot not only beds the film into it’s Mexican surrounding but also shows that this is an immaculately produced film.

If you needed any further proof of this then you need look no further than the sound design. There are driving abstract tones that grow in a crescendo throughout the film which, once set on top of long unedited shots, again adds to the feeling of unease. It’s often something you see utilised well in trailers but is often more difficult to pull off in films.

The acting in Sicario is excellent as you might imagine from the cast listed above. Del Toro’s aloofness brings out an inherit distrust of his character whilst Brolin’s ability to switch from evasiveness to direct orders makes his a character that you wouldn’t want to cross.

Sicario or hitman has quite the misleading title but the biggest issue is that the film doesn’t make more of an effort to feed you cues for the storyline. Otherwise though its a wonderfully produced film – even down to the excellent poster. Yet, for all Sicario’s production values it means sweet F all if you leave the cinema confused and underwhelmed. I mean; just because it looks good and doesn’t taste bad doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to eat more of it.

Go See

  • Great looking
  • Great sounding
  • Great acting

Avoid

  • Story
  • The Hitman
  • Unsatisfying End

Overall

3-5-stars

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