Trying something new! I apologize for the tardiness, guys! Today’s review is co-written and cross-posted. Read on.
What’s Done in the Dark is a collaboration between Rashid Darden (Old Gold Soul) and Jason Williams (NewsWorthyInDC). The two D.C. natives, Georgetown graduates, and all around badass mother suckers will review the latest cinematic offerings. First up is Denis Villeneuve’s action packed Sicario. Rashid’s commentary will be denoted by RD and Jason’s by–bish you guessed it!--JW.
RD: Ever since I started using MoviePass, I have been getting used to the movie-going experience again. I signed up for it on a whim, after gaining consistent employment and making the decision to get out of the house more. The first thing I had to get accustomed to was taking out loans in order to afford the concessions. The second thing was trying to keep track of all the upcoming films.
One of those heavily promoted films is Joy, with Jennifer Lawrence. I swear to God if that movie doesn’t hurry up and come out, I will scream.
Another such film was the one I just saw this weekend: Sicario. To be honest, I really didn’t know what this movie was going to be about until about 90 minutes before show time, when I checked into the theater. I knew I didn’t want to see The Intern (but maybe some day). So the movie about Mexican drug cartels it was! Who doesn’t like a movie about Mexican drug cartels?
JW: It saddens me to report that I had not heard about MoviePass until you slipped that secret, (good looking out BTW). Previously, my movie-going experience was pretty much tied to the tradition of date night: dinner and movie.
I’m sure it was during the previews for The Fighter I first saw the trailer for Sicario. Wasn’t blown away by the trailer but at the same time I’m a soft touch for films that explore non-white underworld dealings. I saw the Joy trailer and if Jennifer Lawrence isn’t bringing down the Capital, I’m not interested. JLaw burned me on American Hustle.
RD: IMDB describes the plot of Sicario thusly: “An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.”
Sicario, we learn early on, means “hitman.”
Now, I really should have known this, but Sicario was intensely graphic, but not gratuitously graphic. Anything you have read about the cartels? Well, they show it in this film. And I think that’s necessary.
The violence and disturbing scenes are also very artistic, as is the rest of the movie. Although none of the locations are exotic or conventionally beautiful, the sweeping panoramas had me spellbound in the theater. The filmmakers really did a fantastic job in showing the beauty of the most mundane locales: a highway, a field, an overpass. Just beautiful.
JW: Sicario is the fourth major movie of Villeneuve and his first departure from family centered drama, which is a welcomed change. Villenuve, like most storytellers, has a tell sign and his is springing a narrative from a single word. Villenuve previous works Incendies (2010), Prisoners (2013), and Enemy (2013), all start from murky double entendre and run in search of concrete truths/meaning. The difference between those works and Sicario, as you alluded to, is Villenuve has never painted on a canvas as large as a country and used such intense imagery. Beside the breathtaking views what I appreciate most about Sicario is it flipped the white savior complex right on it’s head. For the longest time any story that involved the War of Drugs was cast with brown people as criminals, white people as victims, and eventually white knights tasked with saving the day. 30 years after it’s start nuanced discussion on the War of Drugs is the norm, and we are all better for it.
RD: Now to the acting. Truth moment? I really had little knowledge of Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin. And I know Benicio del Toro, I suppose. But I knew none of them well enough to be super excited to see them. However, I thought they all did great, even though for half the time I though Emily was Piper from Orange is the New Black.
JW: Piper? Really fam?
RD: I know. I am literally the worst.
JW: When I saw Emily Blunt in the trailer my interest was piqued; Blunt is cut from the rare cloth of the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones. Feeling enough to draw empathy but sufficiently daring to the point that being a damsel in distress is off the table. I think it is sometimes forgotten that Benicio del Toro is an Oscar winner who is notorious for stealing scenes. He turned three little words into a classic moment in The Usual Suspects. You want to talk mistaken identity Josh Brolin with always be G.W Bush to me. (Eat it Will Ferrell.)
RD: But when I saw Daniel Kaluuya, I was like YAAAAAAAAS that’s the dude from Black Mirror! If you don’t know, Black Mirror is an amazing series on the order of Twilight Zone, but from the UK. It is on Netflix, but you can also purchase it if you have an international DVD or Blu-ray player. (I strongly recommend that movie and tv lovers get a region-free Blu-ray at some point in their lives.)
At first, I thought Daniel was just going to be the typical black sidekick. But he wasn’t. He delivered a very nuanced and layered performance in the second half of the film. He emerged as a partner, friend, protector, warrior, skeptic, and also vulnerable and sensitive. He provided balance for Emily Blunt’s character. She needed someone to trust implicitly, a trust that she consistently lost throughout the film.
It also helps that Daniel Kaluuya is one ruggedly handsome son of a gun.
JW: This is my first experience with Mr. Kaluuya. He delivered. If nothing else, they didn’t give this role to Anthony Mackie, who has played the two dimension supportive black friend to death.
RD: Oh God, I am so tired of Anthony Mackie. I’m glad his pockets are fatter, but he’s strayed so far from his role in 2002’s Brother to Brother that I don’t even enjoy seeing him anymore.
Anyway, I really didn’t think I would see a film as good as The Martian this year, but Sicario was really, truly amazing. It’s definitely not for everyone, and not for the squeamish, but I for one like a good, violent film from time to time.
Oh, one last thing. Obviously, there are tons of Latino characters in the film. It is, after all, about Mexican drug cartels. A better reviewer than me will be able to address whether or not their depiction was accurate or stereotypical. I lean toward accurate, but perhaps that is a problematic characterization that needs to be discussed further.
JW: I didn’t see The Martian when it first came out and since then Matt Damon has been putting his foot all up and in his mouth, which has only demotivated me to see it. I agree with you that Sicario is violent, but it stays clear of being cartoonish in its depiction of the loss of life.
I respect your sensibilities about the numerous depictions of Latino characters and I actually think because the movie shows such a wide range of characters, it avoids stereotyping Mexico, or Latinos in general.
Also, there is not a better reviewer than you.
RD: Oh, stop it you.