Tag Archives: Sicario

Best Films of 2015

I know. We’re hours away from 2017 and I’m only doing my Best Of list for 2015 now. That’s just the way life goes sometimes. Anyway, I finally tabulated all the films I’ve watched with a 2015 release date, and the total number has come to 151! That’s 0.41 movies a day, 2.9 movies a week.

The highest rating I gave was of course 5, and the lowest was 0.5. The average score was 3.05 and the median score was 3, suggesting I was either too generous or the average 2015 film I watched was “pretty decent” (my definition of a 3-star film). And honestly, I feel like that’s a solid assessment of 2015, which garnered the most 5-star scores in I’ve had in a single year since (probably) I started reviewing movies online. The hardest part about this list, as always, was deciding which movies with the same score should be ranked before the other.

Without a further ado, here are my (subjective) top 10 films of 2015, with a few honorable mentions tossed in for fun.

Honorable Mentions

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Steve Jobs, Creed, Inside Out, Spy, Kingsman: The Secret Service

These were movies I enjoyed a lot and I even thought some of them might make the list (until I realised how many other good movies I watched).

Just Missing the Cut

Straight Outta Compton – Never much of a rap guy, even in my youth, but this true story was gripping and explosive.

The Big Short – Sharp, informative, insightful and witty. And that superstar cast is a pure delight.

Spotlight – Superbly made film about an important true story, with brilliant performances all round.

Room – Harrowing, terrifying, yet beautiful film about love and hope.

Amy – I’m not much of a Winehouse fan, but this was one of the best documentaries I had seen in a while. Wish I could have included a doco on the list but I couldn’t push any of the others out.

The List

10. The Stanford Prison Experiment

This was the closest to being replaced with by one from the honorable mentions list, but I really wanted to highlight this film rather than just putting in another lauded movie that appears on most critics’ lists. I was so captivated by this bizarre true story about a university experiment in which some students were cast as inmates while others were cast as prison guards. It was frightening to see how far things went, which was both surreal yet strangely believable. Nice young cast too.

9. Anomalisa

This was one of the most unusual movies I’ve ever seen, and certainly one of the most memorable. The stop-motion animation, the authentic yet purposely fake appearances of the characters, the awkwardness and razor sharp black humour, and the strangely poignant love story — I adored this movie from start to finish. In any other year this is likely in the top 5.

8. Ex Machina

There have been many films about robot, AI and consciousness, but this was just such a brilliant idea and executed so wonderfully. The film rightfully won the Oscar for best special effects and featured a performance by Alicia Vikander that I personally thought was more Oscar-worthy than what she delivered in The Danish Girl (which she actually won the Oscar for).

7. Sicario

Not sure about the sequel coming up because I felt it was near-perfect as a standalone film and should be left alone. This was the only movie I gave 4.75 stars to in 2015 and I still don’t know why I didn’t give it a perfect score. It was intelligent and stylish, and above all, it was so tense and so riveting that I was on the edge of my seat all throughout. This movie is the reason that Arrival (also directed by Denis Villeneuve) is the film I want to see more than any other at this moment.

6. It Follows

The most original horror film of the year. A simple idea but a smart one that takes an otherwise typical horror trope and twists it around— and the execution is incredible. The type of film that makes you put yourself in the shoes of the characters and sticks in your mind long after the end credits roll.

5. Goodnight Mommy

The only foreign film on the list this year, and a highly deserving one for being by far the creepiest movie experience I’ve had in quite some time. It’s slow and not for everyone, but if you like atmospheric horror and want to be creeped out, this is the flick for you.

4. The Martian

My most enjoyable film experience of the year in terms of pure fun and entertainment. I still haven’t read the book, but the film totally nails it, from the performances to the humour to the science (I don’t know how legit it is, but the important thing is that it feels legit). One of the more rewatchable films on this list too.

3. Bridge of Spies

I know some people aren’t that high on this movie, though for me, it’s as close to perfect storytelling as you can get and demonstrates again why Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time. I went from being not very interested in the idea of the film to absolutely loving it. Well-deserved Oscar to Mark Rylance too. Humble brag: I called it as soon as I saw the film.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

This was so close to being my No. 1 of the year. Having never watched the original, I had no idea what to expect, and what I saw blew my mind. The action, the strangeness, the intrigue, the horror—it was simply a jaw-dropping spectacle that has been etched into my memory. Can’t wait to see what George Miller does next.

1. The Revenant

In the end, despite all the great films on this list, the choice wasn’t that hard. The all-time spectacular visuals, the exhilarating, brutal extended action sequences, the Oscar-winning performance from Leo, and of course that memorable bear attack — everything combined to propel The Revenant to the very top of my Best Of 2015 list.

Sicario (2015)

Feels like a million years ago when Steven Soderbergh gave us Traffic, a gritty, dramatic thriller set in the world of drug trafficking. One thing that stood out from that awesome film was the performance of Benicio del Toro, who would go on to win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars for the role.

Fast forward 15 years, and I’m pretty sure Del Toro has at least another Oscar nomination coming his way. Once again, he plays a pivotal role in a drug trafficking film, this time, Sicario, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy, and the upcoming untitled Blade Runner sequel!).

I remember loving Traffic at the time, and I love Sicario. It’s one of the tensest, most heart-pounding thrillers I’ve seen in years. Fueled by three magnificent performances, a compelling plot and a dash of political intrigue, it’s the type of film that makes you forget how to breathe — in a good way.

Sicario, a term used to represent a Latin American cartel hitman, focuses on the brutal border war by US agents against drugs coming in from Mexico. The narrative is driven by FBI special agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), who gets in way over her head when she is recruited to join a mysterious unit headed by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), a Department of Defense consultant. Along for the ride is another consultant played by Del Toro, whose purpose and motives appear to be quite murky.

From the very first sequence in the film you can tell it’s going to be one of those dark, morbid, gripping crime thrillers where lines are often blurred and crossed. The world depicted is brutal and unforgiving, and viewers need to be prepared for some very uncomfortable, chilling and terrifying moments. Villeneuve adopts tactics that are often seen in horror movies, with no shortage of grotesque images, great use of atmospheric silence, and loud artillery noises that can make you jump out of your seat at any second. The tension is executed so well that even during the slower moments you’re still on edge because you remain fearful that something terrible might happen.

All of this ugliness is contrasted by some magnificent cinematography (Academy Awards, take note) by Roger Deakins, who already has 12 Oscar nominations to his name including Shawshank, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Skyfall, Prisoner and Unbroken. The sprawling aerial shots of Mexico, the desert landscapes, the desolate night views — it brings a quiet beauty that accentuates all the relentless violence and death. Some of the images in this film have been etched deep into my memory.

Another thing worth noting is the film’s use of sound and music. Sicario has a haunting soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything) that’s extremely effective because of how minimalist it is. Each beat adds to the adrenaline without being overwhelming or taking the attention away from the story at hand.

What really makes Sicario stand out, however, is Villeneuve’s ability to humanise each character, no matter which side they are on. Everyone has a weakness, a vulnerability that others exploit. Good and bad is not clear cut — it’s more a matter of your individual point of view, and doing what you think is right and what it takes to survive.

Full credit to Blunt, Brolin and Del Toro for their riveting performances and the casting department in getting it right. After Edge of Tomorrow, it’s easy to see Blunt as a badass, and I love her complex mix of courage and fear as a woman in the man’s world of drug cartels. It really brings a different perspective and tone to the story.

Brolin’s of course solid as always, and he gets to be a little more laid back than we’re accustomed to seeing him as of late. But it is of course Del Toro who steals the show — as much as the show can be stolen from the other two — with his typical “what the hell is he thinking” facial expressions and brooding, physical presence. The dude is just an absolute legend and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table in Star Wars Episode VIII!

I’ve been racking my brain to try and think of things I didn’t like about this movie. I can’t. It’s not the easiest movie to watch or the most entertaining movie out there, but just everything about Sicario is borderline masterful; I loved the performances, the stylish direction, the cinematography, the sounds, and above all the numbing tension. It is without a doubt one of the year’s best films.

4.75 stars out of 5