Life Of The Dead
Fear is a very powerful force, especially when it is harnessed to the unknown, potentially endless pain and suffering. Maybe deep down we don’t even know if we have the capacity to cope. Will we come out the other end okay. Will we come out the other end at all?
There’s an extremely foreboding core to Denis Villeneuve’s latest mind melt in Sicario (2015). Actually it’s far more than the core, it’s the entire work. And it is fantastic!
We are dropped straight into Kate Macer’s (Emily Blunt) FBI team on a drugs raid on the Mexican border. Tensions are high, as is the body count, very high. On the so called War On Drugs the apparent solution seems to be who can kill all of the opposition the quickest. And in an environment where evil begets evil, to ever increasing debasement, darkness awaits.
Macer is a superbly trained operative and gets results. But these results are also grindingly repetitive in the fact that there seems to be a never ending flood of drugs and the death/destruction that comes with it. It takes it’s toil, it takes your life, soul and humanity. Entering into this dark world (even with the blazing Mexican heat and sunshine) from even darker shadows is the partnership of agents Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). They seem to have and offer a solution to all this pain, but don’t actually say what it is. They are clearly important, powerful individuals who at the click of their fingers have all the assets they might need for the mission, but Macer is left in the dark (as are we) as to what it is. She is expected to ‘trust’ them, her government. What could possibly go wrong?
So the journey begins, and what a journey. The days get darker as we journey further/deeper into the Mexican underworld, this is Alice on a VERY bad trip. New levels of black are reached as the world envelopes you in a wash of drugs and blood. What is absolute evil in the ‘wealthy’ USA (who buy the drugs) is an every day occurrence where the drugs are made (Mexico). Death squads are everywhere, quite often driving police cars. Layers are slowly stripped away unveiling information at the same time that Macer gets it. In that peeling what was unacceptable previously is now the done, like sunburn it gets rawer and rawer.
It’s clear that this is a feral world of absolute chaos where are ‘norms’ are a foreign language. Macer seems to be that last thread of sanity that weaves through this mesh of bodies, but how long can she hold on before her mind completely frays, some things can never be unseen.
Villeneuve has created a masterful intense, utterly beautiful movie (REALLY stunning cinematography by Roger Deakins) of absolute tension and threat. There are scenes that I’ve thought about every day since I’ve seen it weeks ago. In particular the American black snaking metallic convoy of death driving at great speed through the Mexican streets. A machined tool of destruction slicing through the landscape of life. This is adult story telling at it’s very best.
It doesn’t just bring you to the edge of the abyss, it bungy jumps you into it. Emily Blunt is fantastic as the last remnants of sanity in an insane world, she is by no means weak, but you must become insane to cope with it. Josh Brolin smiles throughout with a menace of the unhinged, but it is Benicio Del Toro who steals every scene. He owns the character, and you never want to meet this character, ever.
Sicario is out now.
Read Steve’s review of Legend with Tom Hardy here >