Sicario, a thriller starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, opened in theaters nationwide this week to warm reviews, as well as controversy.
Sicario finds Kate Macer (Blunt), a straight-laced F.B.I. agent thrown into a world of high-intensity, life-or-death scenarios, as she has been recruited into a cartel-busting task force led by Matt Graver (Brolin), and associate Alejandro (Del Toro), who are at the opposite end of the personality spectrum from Macer; they are unorthodox in appearance and demeanor, and view the lines of legality and morality as blurred.
Sicario is a thriller, and as the name (which translates to “hitman” or “assassin”) implies, there is graphic violence in the film, but Sicario isn’t a shoot ’em up, blow-up-everything-in-sight kind of film. Sicario is an old-school thriller, with suspense, twists and turns, and violence as it relates to the serious subject of drug wars; and it is all done in an effort to create a film that is authentic.
There is a lack of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in Sicario. The film’s director, Denis Villenueve, and cinematographer, Roger Deakins, opted to shoot Sicario on location instead of in a studio to create an authentic-looking film.
Cast and crew traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico; Veracruz, Mexico; and El Paso, Texas to capture the look and feel of the U.S./Mexico border, which is more of a central character in the film rather than a backdrop.
Juarez, Mexico is the film’s setting, but the only shots of Juarez are aerial, as the filmmakers visited Juarez to research and found it too dangerous to film on the ground, according to Men’s Journal.
The dangerous visit did manage to inspire a crucial scene in Sicario, and the trip, along with the experience of Deakins helped develop the wartime aura of Sicario that is seen throughout the film.
“Early in my career I did a number of documentaries. I’ve been in a few warzones,” said Deakins in Men’s Journal. “For the film I studied a lot of footage. What is and was happening on the border of Mexico, with the killings, are things you can’t un-see. You can’t get it out of your head. Luckily I never had to experience anything like the violence in this movie, but I think being in those warzones help give the shots a grounding in reality.”
The genuine feel of the movie may be appreciated by movie-goers, but it is worrying politicians on both sides of the border.
El Paso, Texas city Rep. Peter Svarzbein is hosting a forum on Sicario to view the film and discuss the real-life state of affairs on both sides of the border, in regard to activity and how it affects the community.
“Sicario is about the border, our border. Just watching the trailers you can see the cliched view imagined for this movie about our communities,” said Svarzbein in a statement, according to the El Paso Times. “With the region’s effort to counter the negative misconceptions of the border throughout the nation, this movie impacts our government and community goals of economic and cultural development.”
Enrique Serrano, Mayor of Juarez, Mexico is taking a harder line with the makers of Sicario. Serrano is boycotting the film, and is encouraging others to participate in the boycott to protest the way Juarez is portrayed in Sicario, according to Entertainment Weekly. Serrano has also threatened legal action against the producers, according to Softpedia.
Where there doesn’t appear to be controversy, is in the opinion of the film. Critics and movie-goers have overwhelmingly praised Sicario, giving it high marks in its opening week. Oscar buzz for Sicario began when the film debuted at Cannes. It was an official selection at Cannes and received a seven-minute standing ovation, according to KVIA.com. Sicario was also an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival.
There has been talk of an Oscar-worthy performance by Blunt, as well as cinematography for Deakins.
“A scene where the team descends a hill at sunset to embark on a nighttime raid might be one of the most gorgeous shots ever to grace the big screen,” said Evan Crean on StarPulse.com.
“An unforgettable motion picture that should be on the must-see list for anyone who appreciates films that deal with grays rather than blacks and whites,” said James Berardinelli on ReelViews.com.
“By the end, it packs a death stare so potent it will make you want to turn a blind eye to the shadowy brutality of its real-world horrors,” said Adam Graham in The Detroit News.
A sequel to Sicario is already in the works.
[Photos by Craig Barritt/Getty Images, Tristan Fewings/Getty Images]