One of those select few thrillers that will have your eyes stuck to the screen from the opening credits to the very end, and I mean that literally: I changed my sitting position many times during the film, yet I clearly recall never ever turning my head away from the film, this is how intense it is. With this Denis Villenueve has now consolidated his name as one of most important and gifted directors of our time and has shown us he is here to stay. I truly marvel at how this film is so tightly put together and even despite it faults, which it has, especially in script, it just never gives you a chance to breathe and take it all in, thanks to the atmosphere that is established from shot one until the last one, you are always anticipating something's going to happen and that is the sign you are watching a great thriller. You are always on the edge of your seat and in some occasions you are really biting your knuckles. The movie has a way to throw you into the action that is really rare to find, especially in a highway sequence where I literally felt I was there. All of this is achieved thanks to probably the best cinematography of this whole year. Deakins does it again, once more playing with a lot of blacks and shadows and once more succeeding one hundred percent. Also remarkable is the use of helicopter shots which don't feel like connective tissue, but actually part of the organic, that's something really hard to pull off. The sound design of this film is flat out amazing, some of the best I have truly ever had the pleasure to experience. It is so in you face, so tight, it really contributes in making you feel a part of this even in the more intimate scenes. Music too is also excellent and while some may say it was a little too ominous and dark I felt it matched the tone perfectly and enhanced some parts magnificently, contributing to a nail-biting building of tension. Of course one couldn't get past reviewing this film without nominating the three great performances at its center. Del Toro, Brolin and Blunt are each better than the other and continue stealing the screen to themselves scene after scene. There really isn't one stand out, the three of them just excel sky high and give depth to characters that are interesting. The characters are really what holds the film together, they are truly developed three dimensionally and explored in depths that aren't normally reached. What makes the film stumble is the fact that in never has a good enough plot to make things as interesting as they should be. It really has a hard time in setting up which way it's going and in the end it actually doesn't end up with a satisfying resolution. You are certainly left with something to think about because of the themes, the characters, the atmosphere and the intensity, but all in all the plot doesn't offer interesting turns and not enough moral questioning, unlike "Prisoners", and so remains slightly one-note for the whole duration. It also has a totally useless character in Blunt's partner, which other than never understanding why he was there or what was his arch in the film, I never understood how he was being played. Still there is nothing short of amazing in what Villenueve achieves in two hours. What could have been a screenplay turned into a very generic police drama, is actually one of the most atmospheric and tense movies of the year.
In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent [Emily Blunt] is enlisted by an elite government task force official [Josh Brolin] to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past [Benicio Del Toro], the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive. (C) Lionsgate