French-Canadian writer/director Denis Villeneuve has carved out a pretty remarkable résumé in the last few years, with the terrific likes of his adaptation of Incendies and his hugely underrated American debut Prisoners. He’s made a particular name for himself as an expert purveyor of tension, and that’s a hallmark that’s almost ever-present with his latest crime thriller, which uses the backdrop of America’s “war on drugs” to portray another ethically murky, tough-edged morality tale. While it doesn’t exactly tread particularly innovative ground with its narrative, everyone involved is so on top of their game it’s hard not to be impressed.

Having a female lead is as refreshing as ever, and Emily Blunt carries the film very well – although Benicio del Toro ends up doing his usual trick of not only stealing scenes but practically walking off with the entire film. Johan Johansson does a terrific job with an evocative, unsettling score; Villeneuve’s set-pieces are mounted with terrific technical precision, and everything is stunningly lensed as expected by the masterful Roger Deakins. When you have people this talented pulling their weight, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel – just telling a gripping story is more than enough to be memorable.


A pretty straightforward cartel crime thriller6
Denis Villeneuve is one of the most underrated North American filmmakers8
Benicio del Toro's scene-stealing performance9
Roger Deakins can make someone pouring a cup of tea look stunning8
Sometimes you just need to tell a decent story very well8
Bechdel Test Passes
  • n/a
Bechdel Test Failures
  • Features only one named female character
8Overall Score

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