October 29, 2015

[MOVIE] “Sicario” battles today’s swath of darkest crimes


From acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners,” “Incendies”) comes “Sicario,” a searing emotional-thriller that descends into the intrigue, corruption and moral mayhem of the borderland drug wars starring acclaimed and award-winning actors including Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt, Academy Award winner Benicio Del Toro and Academy Award nominee Josh Brolin.

“Sicario” ratchets into a series of boiling encounters when when Arizona FBI agent and kidnap-response-team leader Kate Macer (Blunt) uncovers a Mexican cartel’s house of death, her shocking find leads to profound consequences on both a personal and global level. Kate is recruited to join a covert black-ops mission headed by a mysterious Colombian operative known only as Alejandro (Del Toro) along with special agent Matt Graver (Brolin) Even as Kate tries to convince herself she’s on a hunt for justice, she is thrust into the dark heart of a secret battleground that has swept up ruthless cartels, kill-crazy assassins, clandestine American spies and thousands of innocents.

“It’s a movie about choices,” adds Benicio Del Toro, who dives into one of his most conflicted roles as the equal parts vengeful and tender hit man Alejandro. “It’s tough to say whether any character in Sicario is truly good or bad. Do the means justify the ends? What happens when go into a situation where you want to kill one guy and you kill 20 innocent people? You got the bad guy, but at what cost?”

“Kate is tempted by this world,” says Emily Blunt, who breaks the mold with her portrait of a fierce female character whose life is in jeopardy throughout every second of the film. “She realizes she was barely scratching the surface doing things by the book and now she wants to believe she can do something that will make a real difference. Yet the very idea of no longer following the rules turns Kate’s whole world upside down. Nothing makes sense anymore.”

Josh Brolin, who is known for characters who ply the edges, was intrigued by the movie’s subtext of big questions about values versus security and whether fighting criminals with outlaw behavior darkens hearts beyond repair. “This movie is a human mystery that you get to grab at and put together for yourself,” Brolin says. “It’s a suspenseful and emotional puzzle.”

For screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, slowly, a story began to emerge about a side of the war on drugs few ever have seen in the U.S. -- the story of a war on drugs that often, in practical terms, becomes a war for drugs, as the powers that be jockey for control of the trade. It was, by necessity, a story full of human ambiguity. “Crime stories are usually told either from the point of view of the hero or the villain,” Sheridan notes. “This story couldn’t be like that. This is a story in which, even when you think the villain has been caught, you realize the problem hasn’t really been resolved. There will be another villain tomorrow.”

Sheridan’s script immediately garnered praise for its blend of a breathless thriller pace with the poignant characters of a sophisticated drama. But at first, he encountered resistance to the obvious risks of making the film. Then he met Thunder Road founder Basil Iwanyk and senior vice president of features Erica Lee.

Iwanyk says the screenplay was just too powerful to ignore; it was tense and timely, it was mesmerizing in its emotional sweep. “We thought it was one of the most beautifully, intensely, emotionally written thrillers that we’ve read in a really long time,” he comments.

Villeneuve felt an instant affinity for the material, but his aim was to leave judgment out of it, allowing the audience to decide whether the methods used by the blacks-op team are worth it in the end. “I have always thought that the world is gray, not black-and-white, and that the notion of good and evil is oriented by one’s cultural and geopolitical background,” the director comments. “Is there a solution to the continuing growth of the drug trade? Sicario raises a lot of questions, but it leaves the answers open.”

High-intensity action explodes in “Sicario” – now in cinemas nationwide from Pioneer Films.

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