January 16 - SICARIO (2015)
"This is a land of wolves now."
SICARIO is directed by Denis Villeneuve, who also directed ENEMY (2013) and PRISONERS (2013), both of which are phenomenal, tense movies in their own right. SICARIO isn't quite as stressful as PRISONERS, but the tension here is kept simmering throughout the movie, always threatening to strike. The music does a lot to help that perpetually ominous feeling (as does the Drug War™ setting, obviously) and the sound design coupled with the wide aerial photography hits all the same menacing notes as an episode of True Detective Season 1 (and the poster above has some TD echoes itself). It's sleek, it's vicious, it's riveting, but I don't think I liked it.
Emily Blunt plays an "idealistic" FBI agent who wants to do things by the book when she's recruited to a special task force designed to take down a high-ranking member of a Mexican cartel. She's effectively a stick in the mud for Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro to alternately tolerate, intimidate, physically threaten, and exploit for their own goals. This is where I run into issues with SICARIO. Brolin and Del Toro are presented as extremely competent, badass action heroes with a big-picture view of the good, while Emily Blunt protests their methods and *nags* at them. There's no resolution to this dynamic, either. I don't mean to posit that happy endings are always desirable (they seem to be rare in Villeneuve movies, anyway) but it simply doesn't pay off narratively in a way that feels anything other than quasi-sadistic. Perhaps I need to let SICARIO settle for a while before I cement my feelings on it -- I get the whole "viciousness of war / there's no fairytale ending for anyone" notion -- but despite its impressive production, I left somewhat sour on SICARIO.