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When discussing “scenes of the year”, someone on the Filmspotting podium mentioned the opening scene of Sicario, and I nodded in excitement and agreement under my podcast headphones. A group of US … officials of sorts, a bit DEA, a bit FBI, maybe a bit CIA, rolls into Mexico in a small convoy of SUVs to pick up a prisoner. It is like watching the raid on Abbottabad, there is a perennial feeling of threat, the streets are lined with heavily armed police (and the suspicion is that they are not all on the same side),  the roads are cleared for the convoy and the helicopter shots follow the trail into the heart of darkness on the other side of the border, an area under full control of drug lords.

Emily Blunt plays an FBI agent who is used as a formal requirement to get US agencies involved, but refuses to remain passive, struggles with her role, with her inability to merely understand, if not to influence, the greater game that others play. Those others are mainly Josh Brolin as CIA consultant and Benicio del Toro as freelance avenging angel. While his involvement may put a bit of stress on your suspension of disbelief, it is a fierce part, played with fierce intensity. If anybody doubted what kind of war this is, del Toro’s role explains it.

With its number of high-tension set pieces while devoting ample time for the Blunt character to despair about her situation (and kudos to the actress for allowing herself to look as weary as she does), this is almost perfect thriller cinema, with heroes to root for, others to despise, but sometimes not being very sure which is which.

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  1. By Arrival (Denis Villeneuve 2016) | thomas4cinema on 09 Mar 2017 at 11:30 am

    […] turns less talented writers would have fallen for. Denis Villeneuve excels again: Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, Arrival… what a run!. Together with screenwriter Eric Heisserer he has created a masterful bit […]

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