Sicario review: ‘A Presidential visit to hell’

Michael Joyce enjoys this fresh perspective on the insane brutality of the Mexican drug cartels.

French Canadian Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) is rapidly but almost imperceptibly ascending towards the ranks of the world’s top directors. So much so that it was actually a relief when Ridley Scott announced he was passing over the much-resisted Blade Runner sequel to him. However you feel about his films, you can’t deny that his ability to wring the most from any situation or scene is exemplary. And unlike most big name directors, he doesn’t have a set repertoire of plays that he runs through in every film.

Here he offers a fresh perspective on the Mexican drug cartels, whose scale and insane brutality means that the US has a giant hornet’s nest dangling from its southern border. It doesn’t matter if you poke it or ignore it – it is ferociously agitated either way, with an IS appetite for mayhem. It has been alluded to in some of America’s best TV series – The Shield, Breaking Bad – but the movies have largely left it alone. Sicario takes it on, and takes it on unflinchingly and most impressively, but not quite head on.

Emily Blunt is an FBI agent who finds herself attached to a murkily-defined high level operation against the cartels, headed up by Brolin and Del Toro. Blunt is the audience surrogate, her role is to be left in the dark.

When Villeneuve brings the hammer down, the level of dread and suspense are ferocious. There is a bravura sequence early on where a convoy of cars drive in and out of Mexico over the border to pick up a prisoner, switching between sweeping aerial shots and cramped car interiors. As the convoy of black cars tears through the body-strewn, war-torn streets of Juarez, just over the border from El Paso, it is like a Presidential visit to hell.

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Rating: 4/5 stars

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