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Sicario (4 stars)

Cannes 2015: Emily Blunt impresses in this tense thriller from Denis Villeneuve


Emily Blunt is superb in French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s tense and stylish action thriller set in a lawless land of drugs and guns. When her FBI agent, Kate Macer, is offered a new mission after her exemplary handling of a particularly grim case, her mettle is well and truly tested by a secret CIA task-force who advise her to adopt any means necessary in order to succeed. Macer is the kind of dogged female investigator you read about in modern crime novels and watch on TV but that we see a little less of on the big screen. In that sense Villeneuve (Enemy, Prisoners) sticks close to thriller formula but also takes the path less travelled along the way.

He places the viewer in Macer’s field of vision as she's led unknowingly and unwillingly into Juárez, Mexico. As she slowly learns the troubling details of her mission so do we, adding to the stifling sense of dread and confusion so brilliantly cultivated by Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score, which rises to deafening levels and sounds like the whirring blades of a helicopter coming directly at you. The penetrating echoes serve as a constant reminder of the noise of a drug war taking place right on America’s doorstep.

Macer is surrounded by a male team who consist of wise-cracking asshole Matt (perfectly judged work by Josh Brolin) and Alejandro, played by Benicio Del Toro – who is on strong form as this mysterious and quietly intimidating operative. Special mention goes to Daniel Kaluuya who turns in a subtle performance as Macer's trusted FBI partner and the film's voice of reason.

Essentially Macer is used as a pawn in a game of horribly corrupt international relations but at least she challenges every move. We see her punch her boss in the face, and engage in intense hand-to-hand combat. She is disgusted at the morally reprehensible actions of the Mexican cartel at the beginning and even more so by her own country by the end, despite the risks to her own safety. Fundamentally Sicario (Spanish for hitman) explores the strength it takes to question those in command when you're immersed in a combative environment.

Screening as part of Cannes 2015. General release from Thu 8 Oct.


  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 121 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
  • Written by: Taylor Sheridan
  • Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Jon Bernthal, Josh Brolin
  • UK release: 8 October 2015

After expertly handling a tough case, FBI agent Kate Macer (Blunt) is placed with a CIA task force fighting a dirty war against a Mexican drugs cartel. Blunt is superb as the dogged, combative, increasingly troubled Macer; the supporting cast is great, and Villeneuve delivers a tense and stylish action thriller.


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