Fiction and Facts: Sicario and Carter Land

sicario_posterSICARIO (2015)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Written by Taylor Sheridan

Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin & Benicio Del Toro

Synopsis (IMDb): “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 is not easy to watch. But it is interesting. And well-done. It is disturbing but not that disturbing that you ‘can’t enjoy. I find it hard to write about Sicario in depth. So, let’s see category by category.

All actors are top-notch. Emily Blunt is tough and vulnerable at the same time and Josh Brolin is so manly that my thought went to sex all the time he was on the screen, so he must have been good in his portray of this very American tough guy. And Benicio Del Toro is… broken. I wish he would get an Oscar nomination, he’s that good. Those three are the main characters but everyone else does good job too. No complaints on the acting category. Well, no complaints in any of the categories really.


Villeneuve is an extraordinary director in the way how he deals with his characters. They’re really, really real and really, really complex. Nothing is ever black and white. Never. You just have to appreciate that.  And he digs deep. It sometimes feels that maybe too deep, so deep that it makes you as a viewer uncomfortable and forces you to think your own morals. Maybe too much because as nothing is black and white, the grey area gets wider and one might just get lost. (Hah, found my words.) It’s impossible to watch Villeneuve’s films without thinking what would you do yourself in the situations where characters are put in his films. (Review of Prisoners, another Villeneuve- film.)

Back to technicals. Sicario is shot by non-other than Roger Deakins, the greatest living cinematographer to this girl, so what do you think, did I like the cinematography? Looks like they used a lot of natural light and that’s always amazing. Brutal and beautiful just works so well together. I also love the soundtrack, it got my attention during the film and I’m listening to it right now and it just gets better. Go Jóhann Jóhannsson, you’ve becoming one of my favourite composers! The last year he won a Golden Globe for original music of Theory of Everything, loved that soundtrack! And this one is so totally different. Have a listen!

Unfortunately I think Sicario will get lost in the middle of less harsh subjects or more humane subjects of this year’s Oscar race but I really wish it will not. So far, the best of the year if you don’t count the films that I saw this year like Whiplash that already came out in the States last year. Almost perfect but I can’t point out where it lacked a little that took away that half a star.

Rating: ****½ (out of 5)


cartelland_posterCARTEL LAND (2015)

Directed by Matthew Heineman

Synopsis: “A physician in Michoacán, Mexico leads a citizen uprising against the drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Across the U.S. border, a veteran heads a paramilitary group working to prevent Mexico’s drug wars from entering U.S. territory.”

I saw this one last weekend when IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) started here. So far it’s been the only one but I’m glad I at least saw this.

Seeing Cartel Land after seeing Sicario, not so long ago, was a grim experience. It was like they just made fiction become fact. And it also highlighted how well-made Sicario actually is. In Cartel Land you hear same kind of stories and see same kind of visuals than in Sicario. And that’s terrifying because as long as you know you’re watching fiction, you can be lulled into the believing that doesn’t happen. It’s not real. But then you see a documentary where all of that is real. And that is just plain scary.

Heineman on the left.

After seeing Cartel Land, there was A&Q with director/cinematographer Heineman and he told us that he spend nine months in Mexico all in all to shoot the film. And you can really see it. The material he’s gotten is raw. It wasn’t just once that I was thinking “what the hell, don’t they realize that they’ve been filmed?” Heineman has managed to get his main subjects to say and do things that I’m not sure should be told to anyone. At least not to an outsider. But I guess, he wasn’t an outsider anymore.


If Sicario showed us that the grey area is huge, Cartel Land highlights and underlines it with huge exclamation marks. This world is sick. I think this is very important document that reminds us what’s going on in Mexico and has been for several years. Something should be done but what can you do? I hope Heineman and his crew get some Oscar love at least with in a form of a nomination. And I’m glad that name like Kathryn Bigelow has been an executive producer for this, gets the recognition.

Rating: ****½


  1. Looks like you got to watch two great flicks! Been looking to check out Sicario, but it seems Cartel Land is worth keeping my eyes peeled for!

    • Yeah, rare treat this year. I’m glad I saw both of these. And the sound department in Sicario did such a great job that it should be viewed in cinema to get everything out of it.

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