October 4, 2015 at 6:44 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ½

Director Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies,” “Prisoners”) has proven his penchant for intense stories and is in his element once again. In his most polished and powerful film to date, Villeneuve turns his lens on the blood-soaked horror that Juarez, Mexico, became toward the end of the last decade. We follow a group of American law-enforcement as they try to track down an invisible cartel boss. Emily Blunt plays an Arizona FBI agent recruited to join the group for reasons that baffle her. The group is lead by a mysterious operative played by Josh Brolin and contains a disturbingly shady Benicio Del Toro. Blunt’s character tries desperately to keep up with this cowboy crew while also trying to figure out what it is they are clearly not telling her. This is a taut and wild ride. Within the first ten minutes, my heart was racing. Villeneuve is masterful and building tension and it’s on full display here as he shows us a half dozen ways to create anxiety: explosively or in a slow burn, in close ups and wide angle shots, in the use of fore & background and camera focus, in tight spaces and wide open ones, with music and with silence, with what is shown on screen and what is hidden, he manages to never create tension the same way twice. Scene after scene is so beautifully framed: the scene with the multicolored wristband, the one in the cop car, the dinner table, the waterbottle. Really, this is a beautifully rendered film. It is also beautifully acted by an outstanding cast. I was most impressed by Brolin’s laconic, arrogant and cynical take on his character. Though it would be easy to over look relative newcomer, Daniel Kaluuya (“Kick-Ass 2,” “Black Mirror”), as Blunt’s insightful and protective partner, he gives a powerful performance in each of his scenes. This is a strong cast, with a strong director and a strong script. The combination is probably the best film I have seen so far this year.


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