My feelings for director Denis Villeneuve’s film Sicario mirror my feelings for the newest Bond song, Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall.” Spectre’s theme has that big, brassy refrain and Smith’s impossible falsetto, but the song as a whole lacks a certain inherent rhythm, a centralized heartbeat if you will.
Similarly, Sicario boasts gorgeous photography, an expertly-crafted score and fantastic performances from Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro, but the film as a single piece felt like it didn’t quite have a unifying rhythm beneath its many pieces.
Sicario at its best feels like a more domestic Zero Dark Thirty, and it sheds light on warfare and savagery we don’t often associate with our own continent. But where the many globe-trotting sequences of Zero Dark Thirty felt like natural, linear progressions to one another, always moving episodically forward toward a single consistent goal, the intertwining narratives of Sicario feel more like a crossover between three separate television shows. But we don’t really have any knowledge of what these three shows are on their own. We’re introduced to them through this crossover and while they depend on each other enough that they can’t really stand on their own they never quite come together into a single cohesive piece either. There are three stories in Sicario vying to be the primary narrative and that squabbling ultimately wields three secondary narratives, each of them good, but none of them being given enough weight to anchor the entire film.
Much as I’ll be humming that dope refrain from “Writing’s on the Wall” to myself for the next month I’ll definitely remember Sicario’s most inspired scenes, (an impossibly intense border crossing and a climactic confrontation are particularly phenomenal) but I don’t know that I’ll ever go out of my way to revisit either.