I'm having a pretty difficult time making sense of Sicario. Coming fresh off the heels of my first Villeneuve film viewing (the weird, overly metaphorical yet somehow beautiful "Enemy") I had pretty high expectations going into the movie. It's got Roger Deakins behind the camera and Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro in front of it, and I heard that the tension alone would make the 2 hour running time fly by.
Well. Here we are. Two hours later, and I'm not exactly sure what to think. All of those mentioned above did their job exceedingly well: Deakins killed it as always, and the performances of the three lead characters - specifically Blunt's - were riveting. The film definitely went by quickly, and it was tense throughout, and yet I can't help feeling that something is missing. Which is weird, because everywhere I look, all I can see are glowing reviews and praise being thrown at Villeneuve and Co. for making what some people are calling the best movie of the year (for example, check out Rolling Stone's review here and the AV Club's right here) So... am I wrong here? Am I missing something?
To make a long answer short; yes. Probably. The more I read about the film, the more I feel like it deserves an immediate second viewing. Specific complaints of mine, like the sense that I was never quite sure what was going on throughout the movie, were more or less put to rest when I realized that Blunt's character is supposed to be in the same shoes as the audience, with the lack of info supposedly pulling us along throughout. I'll buy that, I guess, and watching it again could take away that distraction of trying to figure out what the hell is going on and the constant worry that I'm missing something.
The more I think about it, the more that I realize that I just didn't particularly care about any of the characters (spoilers coming if you haven't seen Sicario). Sure, the scene where Blunt's character almost gets choked to death by the undercover hitman was suspenseful, but I never particularly cared if anything bad happened to her. Same goes for Brolin's and Del Toro's characters. They all did a fantastic job with the acting, don't get me wrong, but the movie more or less failed to connect with me on a personal level of any kind. In retrospect, I understand that the point was, as the AV Club puts it, to "squeeze the protagonist out of her own story." It was dark and futile, and every time you wanted to see Emily Blunt kick some male ass, she didn't. This wasn't a movie about the good guys winning, or even about the bad guys winning. Nobody won. Even the characters who managed to achieve their goals didn't win. I don't mind bleak movies, or even movies that subvert audience expectations, but with something this bleak, I at least like to be left with some sort of tidbit to ruminate on as I leave the theatre. In reality, I was kind of just frustrated.
Again, I feel like I'm just shitting on this movie, but it really did have some incredibly well executed scenes. The beginning had me 120% hooked, and might be one of the better intro scenes to any movie that I've seen in a long time. Roger Deakins filmed the whole thing beautifully, with what seemed to be a tendency to center his shots more so than I've seen him do in the past. All of the night vision/infrared scenes were really well done, and it's safe to say that the whole film was more or less a visual pleasure.
So. I don't know. I want with all my heart to say that this was a great movie, but right now I can't muster up the strength to call it anything more than decent. I'm not mad that I paid to see it, but at the same time, I wish I had enjoyed it just a teensy bit more. Denis Villeneuve has a history of making morally ambiguous films, and Sicario fails to break that trend. Maybe I'll feel different on a second viewing, but I don't exactly have high hopes.