The Critical Optimist

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Sicario

I’ll put it out there now.  This is a deep, dark, insanely depressing movie.  The Plot follows a young policewoman named Kate, who, having just busted a domestic cartel hideout is feeling especially discontented with the futility of her work, and when offered the opportunity to join an international drugbusting taskforce, she agrees.  Kate is pulled swiftly into a world of violence, corruption, and rampant terrorism; committed by both sides.  Therein lies Sicario’s primary dilemma.  The good guys in the movie, aren’t really good guys, and the only anchor of morality in the whole thing, Kate, is constantly powerless, lacking the strength to stand up to the shady practices of her superiors.  The movie builds you up for a pivotal moment, and confront the venal law enforcement agents.  Much to my dismay, that moment never really comes.

If there is any shred of redemption it is the excellent camera work done by cinematographer Roger Deakins.  His shots and timing are positively masterful.  A shot from a rooftop looking over at the city of Juarez shows explosions and gunfire, but from a distance.  The camera pivots rapidly to the left, and we see flashing red and blue.  One can only imagine the damage that will be done by the time they get to the scene.

The movie’s climax finds Kate accompanying a swat task force to a raid of a cartel compound.  The scene is shot in total darkness, the shots with out filter have you struggling to make out the blurred shapes on the screen.  Intermittently the Deakins gives us illumination through vivid night vision, and even the occasional crisp POV shot through the agents’ thermal cams.  The best part is when the men enter the tunnel, the camera points downward, following a trail of footprints, made by heat residue. It looks up to see the prints creator, dropping to the ground, an enemy, freshly dispatched.  This is truly masterful film-making.

The wave of depression that comes after watching this movie however, ought not to be underestimated.  Though a film enthusiast may geek out as the camera men show off their visual chops, this is a thoroughly joyless movie.  The final scene shows a soccer game, in Juarez, Mexico.  A boy kicks the ball, and dribbles it past several opponents.  Suddenly, a gunshot rings out in the distance.  The townspeople look up, and around.  After 5 seconds or so, the boy kicks the ball again, and the game resumes.  Violence is depressingly commonplace, both in Juarez, as in this movie.  The title fades in, and the film is over.


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