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Scene of the Day – Sicario’s Tense Border Showdown

I AM currently a little infatuated with Taylor Sheridan – an accomplished actor, screenwriter and director. Blame it on the hype surrounding his latest release as director and screenwriter, Wind River.

Yesterday I spoke about his cutting and Oscar-winning work Hell or High Water. With Wind River now out in cinemas, I want to revisit another of his highly-acclaimed crime-thrillers, Sicario (2015).

Paired up with director Dennis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners), Sheridan’s story is a riveting tale of corruption, drugs and violence along the US-Mexican border.

Emily Blunt stars as Kate Macer, an idealistic FBI agent thrown into the murky operations of an anti-drugs task force led by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and advised by federal agent Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro).

After daringly crossing into Juarez to secure a prisoner, Graver’s task force get caught in a heavy traffic-jam trying to re-enter the US. Alejandro and Kate nervously look out of their SUV windows as cars crawl by. An aerial shot of the traffic shows they are sitting ducks.

Soon a red Impala, hosting a group of young men and one particularly suspicious tattooed figure, rolls up – closely followed by a similarly mistrustful green Civic. Alejandro pulls out his gun and aims. Johann Johannsson’s pulsing, war-like drum score, increases the tempo and urgency.

The Delta Force soldiers get out of the SUV and surround the cars. A brief and tense stand-off ends with the soldiers swiftly taking out the targets. Blood sprays everywhere like paint in a Jackson Pollock painting.

Kate, who has stayed in the SUV despite Alejandro’s advice to get out, seems deeply troubled and flustered. ‘What the fuck are we doing?’ she asks. As Kate looks around, she notices an armed figure in the car’s side mirror. She turns and shoots the individual dead. ‘Fuck!’ she screams.

It is mission accomplished for the force. Matt smiles at their hooded prisoner, who is safe, secure and ready to head over to the US.  ‘This’ll be on the front page of every newspaper in America,’ remarks one of the Delta force team.

‘No it won’t. It won’t even make the papers in El Paso,’ is the revealing response.

For Villeneuve and Sheridan, this scene is masterful display of tension-building. There are many examples of this in Sicario (‘hitman’ in Spanish),  a brilliantly paced film in which deceit is rampant and morals are scrambled.

The curveball of the botched assassination attempt on Kate only acts to deepen the unsettled and untrusting tone. Kate has been thrust into an unlawful, alien and shadowy world. One that could easily swallow her if she fails to adapt.

Great film making. My scene of the day – and many days to come. Wind River, bring it on.

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