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Emily Blunt's Sicario hailed by Cannes critics as possible Oscar shot

Sicario

Story by Jack Foley

EMILY Blunt has won the praise of critics at Cannes for her performance in Denis Villeneuve’s drugs drama Sicario with several tipping her as an early contender for some kind of awards recognition.

Based on a screenplay by Taylor Sheridan, the film – which takes it name from the Mexican word for ‘hitman’ – follows Blunt’s idealistic FBI agent Kate as she is enlisted by an elite government task force official (Josh Brolin) to aid in the escalating war against drugs.

The ensuing mission is led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past (Benicio Del Toro), eventually prompting Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive.

Debuting at Cannes, the film has won widespread praise for its hard-hitting action scenes, brilliant acting and thought-provoking themes, as well as its similarities to the best films of Michael Mann as well as Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic and even The Silence of the Lambs.

At the forefront of the praise, meanwhile, is Blunt, whose performance has drawn comparisons to a young Jodie Foster in some quarters. Peter Bradshaw, of The Guardian, wrote that “Blunt’s performance has an edge of steel. She brings off a mix of confidence, bewilderment and vulnerability, which functions very well against the alpha male characters higher up the chain of command”.

The Hollywood Reporter also noted that her performance was first-rate writing: “She provides a sharply penetrating reading of a smart, resilient young woman whose desire to help out is no match for the deceptions and frustrating barriers placed in her way.”

And Variety concurred, stating: “Blunt is mesmerizing to watch, her intense blue eyes ablaze with intelligence as she tries to sort out the facts of the case from its attendant fictions.” It predicted that the film, as well as Blunt, could generate “dark-horse awards-season buzz”.

In addition to Blunt, director Villeneuve has also won praise, having previously impressed with his US debut Prisoners a couple of years ago.

The Guardian was moved to pose the question: “Did Denis Villeneuve just take Michael Mann’s crown?” Before adding: “[He has] taken control of a straight-ahead Hollywood genre movie, and managed it with great flair without any supercilious over-thinking – which is not to say that it isn’t smart. As an action thriller, it delivers.”

The Hollywood Reporter also described it as “a searing and superbly made drug cartel drama”, while Variety opined: “Two years after making his U.S. debut with the crackerjack kidnapping drama Prisoners, French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve ups his own ante with Sicario, a blisteringly intense drug-trade thriller that combines expert action and suspense with another uneasy inquiry into the emotional consequences of violence.”

Screen International also weighed in with further praise, writing: “Confronting the war on drugs in a way which is cinematic, but far from superficial, Sicario – cartel slang for ‘hitman’ – is very dark, but it’s also exciting.”

Sicario is currently scheduled to open in UK cinemas on September 25, 2015.

Next story: Pixar’s Inside Out wins lavish praise at Cannes