One of the more purely visceral filmgoing experiences of last year was the hard-hitting “Sicario,” which was the rarest of things: a corpse-littered cartel land thriller that didn’t inevitably resort to dopey action movie clichés to get its points across. The film was also another shattering work from the ever-exciting Denis Villeneuve, whose artistic preoccupations clearly gravitate toward the murky intersection of what it means to be moral and what it means to survive.
The director’s last few films, including “Incendies,” “Prisoners,” and “Enemy,” all have their own unique and respective vibe. And yet all are also fundamentally concerned with the duplicitous nature of surfaces and the emotional cost of violence. In “Sicario,” FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) learns very quickly that she can’t trust anyone or anything she’s being told: the truth is but an illusion in this bleak world, shifting randomly and without notice and resulting in eruptions of violence that are almost biblical in their savagery.
“Sicario: The Mirage of a Moral World” is a new video essay by Digger Deeper that investigates the nightmarish morass of Villeneuve’s bruising fifth feature by highlighting what the narrator calls the “somnambulistic and pensive” pace of the movie, as well as the color schemes envisioned by Villeneuve and DP Roger Deakins, who lends the film its grand and mythic look. In particular, the narrator takes time to point out the prevalence of the color beige in the narrative, in everything from the drab uniforms worn by faceless DEA bureaucrats to the cramped, hemmed-in office quarters where Kate gets her first fleeting taste of moral compromise. In the film’s eyes, Kate is not just some action-movie hero: she’s a beacon of justice in a world defined by uncertainty and conciliation.
It’s certainly a cynical view of the human race, and one that’s further driven home in the unforgettable personage of Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), the hitman who takes Kate deep into the dark and still-beating heart of Juarez. That character exists at the opposite end of the spectrum: he’s long since embraced his inner monster and learned to harness this dark power to his advantage. As a storyteller, Villeneuve is clearly fascinated by boundaries — between predator and prey (“Prisoners”) between the rational mind and pure id (“Enemy”) and, on a very basic level, with good and evil in “Sicario.” Fans of the film will surely dig the in-depth look on display here, and even those who weren’t so hot on Villeneuve’s thriller might want to give it a look.
Check out the video below. “Sicario” is currently available on Blu-Ray and DVD.