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Sicario

Police and military procedurals have been very popular.  TV shows such as CSI, NCIS and the Law & Order franchises have educated viewers in the miniature of crime work.  Whilst shown in heightened reality, there’s been enough to captivate in showing the machinations of criminals and law-defenders.  ‘Sicario’ takes a leaf out of this successful book.  Delving into a grimy world of drugs and politicking, it’s a gripping procedural worth investigating.

 

Kate (Emily Blunt) is an idealistic FBI agent good at her job.  Determined to uncover any vicious crime, she usually finds her prey.  Enlisted by a government task force to tackle a drug war between the American and Mexican border, her resolve is tested.  Working with fellow agents Matt (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) she soon discovers all is not as it seems with the war on drugs blurring the lines between friend and foe.

 

Any good movie should captivate from its first frame, something ‘Sicario’ effectively does.  Initially a typical drug-bust drama, it soon morphs into a gripping tale of revenge. Whilst the law-enforcers are the tale’s ‘heroes’, events force viewers to question what they see.  Shaking the audience from their pre-conceived ideas, ‘Sicario’ provides genuine twists.  Kate, Matt and Alejandro all have their own agendas making for realistic conflict and true tension.

 

Denis Villeneuve’s direction wrings much from the premise.  Only using dialogue when absolutely necessary, he allows the mood to slowly surface.  Coupled with sparse use of music, Villeneuve forces his audience to observe the action.  The raids on drug compounds are genuinely gripping, dragging the observer right into the heart of battle. The actors do a fine job in these sequences ensuring their characters are shown in shades of grey rather than being empty characterisations.

 

One of the strongest movies about the drug trade in recent years, ‘Sicario’ benefits from authenticity.  Well performed with arresting cinematography, it’s a worthy exploration of a scene most should avoid.

 

Rating out of 10:  8

Pan

One of the benefits of a sequel or remake is that films can readily re-use sets.  Millions can be saved by using the same background with the extra cash reserved for star salaries and expensive CGI.  ‘Pan’ is a case at point.  The umpteenth and very familiar re-telling of the Peter Pan legend, audiences may experience déjà vu.  Glitzy and expensive looking, its story seems to have been copied from better predecessors.

 

Spirited away to the magical kingdom of Neverland, Peter (Levi Miller) wonders what has happened.  Discovering a place of beauty and danger, he slowly realises why he was transported there.  Upon meeting villainous pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), Peter has to meet the threat head-on in order to fulfil his destiny as the heroic Peter Pan.

 

‘Pan’ is a typical product of current Hollywood formula.  Setting up an origin story in order to create a franchise, it is a very by the numbers affair.  The Peter Pan story has been told countless times with this latest version adding nothing new. From Joe Wright’s pedestrian direction to the truly appalling performances, ‘Pan’ mechanically goes through the motions.  The use of over the top humour grates with the screenplay dubiously talking down to its audience.

 

The one saving grace is the special effects which are suitably dazzling.  The creation of the fairies and Neverland is startling and the money is well spent.  Sadly the CGI is hung on a poorly scripted and predictable movie.  There’s never any sense of joyful fun or the elusive ‘wonder’ which such a film needs.  ‘Pan’ simply exists to become a cinematic cash-cow for a greedy studio.  In this instance it deserves scorn for the cynicism its film executives have shown to its audience.

 

Despite its glossy visual flair, ‘Pan’ is a poor excuse of a movie.  A mediocre adventure, its presence on the silver screen devalues the writing of Peter Pan’s creator J.M. Barrie.  It’s an embarrassingly bad yarn of little merit with its promise of sequels of which audiences should be afraid.

 

Rating out of 10:  1