This past weekend, I had the privilege to attend the 40th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. Among our most anticipated films to see stood Sicario, the latest feature by Quebec-born director Denis Villeneuve.
Sicario serves as the first attempt at an action feature for Villeneuve, whose previous efforts such as Prisoners and Enemy debuted at the 2013 edition of TIFF to widespread acclaim from attendees and critics alike (the former took home the prize of the People’s Choice Award Second Runner Up that year and remains the greatest film I have seen at the festival).
The film follows diligent FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), as she joins a controversial government task force with the goal of track down one of Mexico’s most wanted drug lords.
Much like many of Villeneuve’s other features, the film’s pacing is set to a slow burn. Although consistently engaging, the film steadily builds up the fear and anticipation of its audience, leaving them never truly sure as to what will happen next.
Sicario also revisits the commonly seen Villeneuve theme of having characters who will go to any extremes to do justice for the ones they love. One of the director’s greatest strengths throughout his career is his ability to create very character based, emotionally driven stories and that is definitely prominent in this film.
In a Q&A following the premiere screening of the film, Blunt describes her character as “the audience’s surrogate in many ways. Is as confused as you probably were.” The actress went on to explain that she did her research for the film’s character by speaking to four different female agents of the FBI about their experiences during their time working for the agency.
It seems as if this research truly did pay off, with Blunt delivering what is truly the greatest performance of her career thus far. Fearful, confused yet determined in her line of work, Kate is undeniably the film’s most relatable character.
The other standout performance in the Sicario comes from Benicio Del Toro, who plays the role of the ever mysterious Alejandro. Of course, Del Toro is well known for his performance in previous drug-trafficking related film Traffic. While some may believe that the film has Del Toro was type casted, playing an all too familiar role. But a part like this seems as if it were almost written for Benicio. The actor shines in the later half of the film, as the true motives of his character begin to unravel.
Sicario‘s score, which was provided by Jóhann Jóhannsson (who previously composed the music for Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners) does justice to the film’s often chilling and uncertain tone and helps exemplify the heavy emotions seen throughout the film to a large extent.
While the film might not be as much of a masterpiece as some of his previous efforts, Sicario is still another fantastic film to add to Denis Villeneuve’s esteemed résumé. The film does a worthy job of continuing his strong-suit of channeling raw emotions from its characters. 8/10