Emily Blunt has led a bit of a charmed career. Maybe she’s lucky, or maybe she makes great decisions. Either way, it works for her, because she works her roles. She works them to the bone. This time, she’s playing a sharp but naïve FBI agent recruited for an elite task force on the U.S. and Mexico border. Josh Brolin plays her superior and does a nice job as a mediator for the plot, but it’s Benicio Del Toro’s performance that fills every frame he’s in. It’s quiet, commanding, and perhaps one of his best, and that’s saying a lot. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners”) knows how build dark and dramatic films. He shines just enough light to see where we’re going, but not enough to see what’s coming. “Sicario” is Spanish for “Hitman,” and this film hits hard and fast – worth a watch.
There are two things you need to know about director Robert Zemeckis’ new film. First, you have to get used to Joseph Gordon-Levitt pinning on a ridiculous accent to try and match the real life high-wire artist Philippe Petit. But Petit is a bit of an over-the-top character anyway. Second, Zemeckis has gotten so good at manipulating digital effects that there are moments when the high-wire scenes do induce vertigo. But no one has integrated CG effects as well over the last 30 years as Zemeckis. Take a look at the “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Forrest Gump,” “Cast Away,” “The Polar Express” and “Flight” to see how effects can highlight character. So who better to resurrect the World Trade Center towers in New York, circa 1974? It’s basically a retelling of the 2008 documentary “Man on Wire,” but Zemeckis takes you out on the wire, and Gordon-Levitt gives a spirited performance. It’s a beautiful nod to the simple seventies, and worth a watch.
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“Beasts of No Nation”
Netflix didn’t choose easy content for their first original film. The online streaming service opted for the socially conscience choice of Uzodinma Iweala’s debut novel about the atrocities of children soldiers in Africa. Writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga does no disservice to his source material. He’s unflinching, often brutal, in his direction. As usual, British actor Idris Elba devours his role as a commandant of a civil defense force, but the young Ghanaian actor Abraham Attah does more than his job. Attah shows he’s a great young actor, while embodying the terrible issues of child soldiers as they slowly lose their connection with humanity. Netflix could’ve played it safe with a rom-com or a period piece or anything else, but instead, they drove deep into the drama and deserve some kudos for it – worth a watch.