I was crossing all the toes and fingers in anticipation of this one. Sadly, Sicario isn’t as good as you’ve probably heard, which gives me no pleasure. If it had preserved the clean procedural tension of the opening half hour we would have been fine, but from the moment the camera started to linger on an overkill number of corpses decomposing behind drywall a cheesy, manipulative flavour kicked in and it was a downhill drag from there. Sigh. Emily Blunt is Kate, FBI SWAT boss battling southern-state drug cartel activity sucked into a murky, border-busting Special Ops initiative by Josh Brolin's CIA spook, who is in turn facilitating the mysterious Alejandro (Benico Del Toro) in some sort of personalised revenge trajectory wherein their interests more or less align.
If the utterly depraved dynamics of the continental American drug war are really news to you, Sicario might possess more of the galvanic momentum it was obviously striving for. In lieu of that shock value we both felt it offered little in the way of novel perspective or characterisation to relieve that sense of no-shit-sherlock redundancy. It stumbles from the moment it veers away from impersonal momentum into the organisms involved, defying logic and resorting to laboured misogynistic diminution to make its feeble point.
Josh Brolin's CIA guy is the self-regarding median douche he always brings to the fucking table, which was annoying. But it's Emily Blunt who really made me want to kick the screen. Blunt has never sold me anything; as the Young Victoria she couldn’t even stand there in a fucking dress without pissing me off with that complacent duckface. She is too static, too leaden, too self-conscious and projects all three deficits here as the FBI agent with an er… heart of naive gold. Despite her character riding the pointy end into contra-cartel action on the daily, she remains a delicate principled flower, apparently, requiring male protection and supervision at every juncture. Not since Jason Bourne has someone seemed so utterly fucking baffled by their own trajectory but you know… bitches be crazy. The story so palpably aches to trail breathlessly after the macho Del Toro, wrong’d, ambiguous antihero, that Blunt’s hapless nark feels as superfluous and derisory to the audience as she does to her fellow protagonists. Benicio is mmmgood but I wish someone would really twist his arm and make him work all that recessed potential.
I can see why generic male critics creamed their pants over Sicario. It’s everything they want movies to be- sneakily androcentric, essentially uncomplicated whilst affecting complexity, technically praiseworthy, vaguely familiar (it rips chunks out of Zero Dark Thirty and even The Usual Suspects with gay abandon) and reductively cynical.
Visually Sicario is sharp, diverting and moderately creative, though I had an issue with its rendering of the penultimate action in alt. spectrums because that shit was budget. It may be worth watching but that's not much consolation when one considers just what might have been.
Even if you're profoundly disinterested in the technical achievement it represents, Everest's fantastically pin-sharp and gin-clear cinematography is the best reason to watch this otherwise pretty standard disaster/survivor yarn dramatising portions of Rob Hall and Scott Fischer's fatal 1996 expeditions. That, and Jason (Zero Dark Thirty) Clarke, who I had no fucking idea was Australian although that does explain his decent Newzullindish (not sure why our idiom seems to defeat virtually everyone; it's just a flattened affect, off-British variant, ff's.) He is committed, buyable and engaging as the doomed Hall, as is Jake Gyllenhaal, who always delivers when relieved of the lead. Then there's Josh Brolin, who always brings the Josh Brolin, no matter what.
Disappointingly, it is the consistently awesome Emily Watson who shits the tonal bed with her cringeworthy accent and overwrought fretting although, to be fair, Keira Knightley really takes the sloppy hysterics cake; thankfully she is relegated to smallish servings. And that's all there is to Everest, really. Don't go in expecting Tolstoy and you might find it moderately diverting.
I'll award a consolation gold star for the eschewal of cheap pain-porn and stupidly villainous characterisations in its handling of a multi-axial tragedy that attracts vituperative revisionism and partisan dick-waving to this day. Having read a number of opposing narratives, Everest doesn't seem like a particularly outrageous distortion to me, but then I find the whole concept of scrabbling over sacred mountains monstrously egotistical and deeply offensive. Sorry.