Suspense is a tool used in film to make the audience fear, not just for the safety of the characters on screen but also for themselves. This tool is most commonly associated with horror, the creaking door and the slow walks through the hallway of an abandoned house. Yet it was in 2015’s Sicario, where suspense feels real.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Tyler Sheridan, Sicario is a gritty tale of gang violence, American Colonialism and an FBI agent thrown into the middle of it all. Villeneuve’s direction of the film is nothing short of masterful, creating tension out of mundane moments in the film, with simple shots and cuts, making the viewer feel on edge at every moment of the film. This is only heightened by the excellent cinematography of Roger Deaken who turns this tale of gangs vs the CIA into a widescaped western. The collaboration between these two men creates one of the most engaging tales in recent cinema history. Through visual cues, the two manage to create mystery about their characters through visuals alone, rather than through what they say. Sheridan’s script also must be praised. Proving to be one of the most prolific thriller writers in recent history, Sheridan seems to have a fantastic understanding on the role mystery plays in a story. He never truly lets us understand the characters. With Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro, remaining an enigma throughout the entire run of the film, regardless of the fact that we learn quite a bit about him. Where I think Sheridan’s script falls flat is in his treatment of Emily Blunt’s Kate Macy. He introduces her as a hard hitting professional character, yet once Josh Brolin and Del Toro are introduced into the script Blunt’s character loses all agency becoming essentially and extra in her own story. I think this is due to the fact that Sheridan has an issue with writing female characters, with his later film Wind River doing the exact same to Elizabeth Olsen’s character and High Waters having little to no female characters at all. It adds this uncomfortable air of misogyny over the film that does not sit well with me. If you are looking for a film that will make you tense through every single frame of the film, Sicario is definitely a must. It’s well-crafted mystery and beautiful cinematography and direction are enough to make this one of the more interesting thrillers of the previous decade, despite its flaws in the script.