If you haven’t gotten around to checking out Denis Villeneuve’s shattering “Sicario” yet, then you are really missing out one of the year’s best films. His last two pictures —the grim kidnapping drama “Prisoners” and his twisty “Enemy,” which tipped its hat to the body horror classics of fellow Canadian David Cronenberg— are nothing to sneeze at. Yet “Sicario” might be his finest outing to date: it’s a harrowing, impressionistic journey into a modern-day heart of darkness, and one of the year’s most visually striking films.
There’s a lot to admire about Villeneuve’s soul-sick morality tale, including first-rate performances from Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and a casually terrifying Benicio Del Toro, as well as a script that pulls the rug out from underneath the viewer at every conceivable opportunity without ever seeming contrived. But perhaps the film’s biggest asset comes from renowned British cinematographer Roger Deakins, who lensed “Sicario” and gives the film’s godless borderland milieu an almost mythical sheen. The film finds Deakins depicting the Texas-Mexico border as a sun-scorched evocation of hell, with corpses hanging from overpasses, rotting cadavers stuffed into walls and the value of human life seemingly dwindling with every waking moment. Even the film’s more seemingly ordinary passages, set in unassuming motel spaces, drab conference rooms and kitschy southwestern cowboy bars, are given an air of menace, thanks to the penetrating visual language that has become Deakins’ trademark.
It goes without saying that Deakins is a master of his craft, but his work in “Sicario” is a high watermark. And so, in a revealing new hour-long talk with The British Society Of Cinematographers, Deakins discusses the the process behind some of the film’s most striking shots and his working relationship with Villeneuve. Anyone who’s heard Deakins speak about his craft previously knows that he has a compelling voice, as well as an ability to articulate the intricate nuts and bolts of his process into something palatable for viewers who may not be as familiar with all the technical jargon. Fans of his work in “Sicario” will be delighted to hear the veteran D.P. discuss what went into depicting the film’s nightmarish finale, as well as the more general role that light and texture plays in the film’s narrative.
Deakins and Villeneuve clearly have a great working relationship, and “Sicario” might just be their most beautiful, fully realized collaboration yet. Villeneuve has wrapped his upcoming sci-fi picture “Story of your Life,” starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, which will be shot by Bradford Young, another prodigiously gifted DP (“A Most Violent Year,” “Selma,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints“). Villenueve also has his “Blade Runner” sequel in the works, which is easily his most high-profile project to date and a good enough reason to reunite with Deakins to create what is is sure to be beautiful and nightmarish continuation of Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi/punk mythology. Check out the entire talk with Deakins below. “Sicario” expands to wide release on October 2nd.