Oscars 2016: Predictions

On Sunday evening, the red carpet will be out in the heart of Los Angeles. It is a night that has been months in the making. The world’s press will be waiting, and millions will be watching.

For all the pomp and ceremony which surrounds the Academy Awards, though, they are fundamentally a simple, heartfelt celebration of film. To be nominated is an honour in and of itself, but those who win leave with far more than just a golden statue. They walk away knowing that they have become a part of cinema history.

To win an Oscar is no mean feat; the art of filmmaking is constantly growing and evolving, and every year the bar is raised that little bit higher. Even predicting the results can be surprisingly difficult, but by now guessing the winners is as much a part and parcel of the night as the ceremony itself.

The 88th Academy Awards will showcase the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and honour the best films of the past year. Here are the Pick of the Flicks‘ predictions on who and what will emerge victorious.

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Best Picture

Will win: The Revenant
Should win: The Big Short

Despite the glaring absence of the wonderful Carol, it is a strong group of films that comprise this year’s Best Picture nominees. But of the eight who made the shortlist, only three have ever really been in contention for the most coveted prize of the night, namely The Big Short, Spotlight, and The Revenant. However, despite the successes of Spotlight and The Big Short at the SAG and PGA awards respectively, it is unclear if either has quite enough momentum to make it all the way to the finishing line. It is a very, very difficult call to make, but ultimately the Academy likes nothing if not grit and spectacle, and this is where The Revenant could clinch it.

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The Revenant is this year’s strongest example of filmmaking as a spectacle, which the Academy are likely to lap up.

Best Director

Will win: Alejandro González Iñárritu (The Revenant)
Should win: Adam McKay (The Big Short)

It is difficult to say whether Alejandro González Iñárritu’s win in this category last year places him in better or worse stead to take home the Oscar on Sunday night, especially when he faces such stiff competition from Mad Max’s George Miller. The key disadvantage Miller faces, however, is that the Academy often proves reluctant to reward blockbuster, crowd-pleasing films with ‘big’ awards. This, combined with the sheer amount of momentum behind The Revenant, may just be what hands it to Iñárritu. It is a great shame, though, that Adam McKay will not get a look in for his refreshing, original work in The Big Short; it takes great skill to make complex issues interesting and accessible to the masses, and this is what he does in the film with aplomb.

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Having scooped the prize for Best Director last year with Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu could well do the same again this year for The Revenant.

Best Actor

Will win: Leonardo DiCarpio (The Revenant)
Should win: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

For years now, much has been made of how the famous Oscar statuette has continued to elude Leonardo DiCaprio. But no more. Though his performance in The Revenant is far from a career-best, it certainly is the strongest in this category. More than anything, though, this simply feels like his time. The stars have finally aligned for Leo, and Sunday will be his night.

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His time is now. Finally, Leonardo DiCaprio looks set to claim the Oscar that has eluded him for so long.

Best Actress

Will win: Brie Larson (Room)
Should win: Brie Larson (Room)

Brie Larson’s mantelpiece must surely be close to collapse under the weight of the many awards she has garnered in recent weeks. Let us hope, then, that it can take the weight of one more because this has been a done deal for a very long time indeed.

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For her wonderful performance in Room, Brie Larson is the hot favourite to win the Best Actress award.

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
Should win: Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

The nominees in this year’s Best Supporting Actor category may be classified into two groups. On the one hand, there is a selection of talented actors, each of whom has turned in a strong and unique performance. And, on the other hand, there is Sylvester Stallone. Although his performance in Creed is by no means the worst of his career, its inclusion here – when stronger performances such as Idris Elba’s in Beasts of No Nation have been ignored – is, frankly, farcical. What is worse, Stallone is the baffling odds-on favourite to win here, proving once again that in Hollywood sometimes all you need to succeed is popularity, not ability.

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A masterclass in mediocrity: a win for Sylvester Stallone in Creed would confirm the triumph of popularity over ability.

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
Should win: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

It seems more than a trifle insulting to Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara that their stellar respective performances in The Danish Girl and Carol have only been recognised in the supporting actress category. In reality, Vikander effortlessly acted last year’s Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne off the screen, whilst Mara more than held her own against acting heavyweight Cate Blanchett. Kate Winslet, fresh from wins at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes, is certainly a contender here, but if any sense of justice prevails at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday night, it will be Vikander who leaves victorious.

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The superb Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl. Her star is fast on the rise.

Best Original Screenplay

Will win: Spotlight
Should win: Inside Out

If pure creative originality were the only criteria for this award, this would be Inside Out’s for the taking. However, as things stand, the tightly-scripted, topical Spotlight will win here with ease.

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Well-written and tightly-plotted, Spotlight has resonated with audiences the world over.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will win: The Big Short
Should win: Carol

All the signs are pointing toward a victory for The Big Short in this category, but truthfully all of the nominees would make deserving winners. Phyllis Nagy’s considered, delicate adaptation of The Price of Salt – renamed Carol for the big screen – is perhaps a touch above the rest, but is unlikely to make any waves.

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The Big Short looks likely to win big in a category brimming with tough competition.

Best Original Score

Will win: Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight)
Should win: Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight)

Pounding, eerie and effective from the first note, Ennio Morricone’s tremendous score is one of the few saving graces of The Hateful Eight – and certainly the best score of the year. Had John Williams’s eagerly-anticipated score to Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit the same heights as his work in the previous six films, this would have been a far more interesting race. The Force Awakens’ soundtrack is by no means terrible, but its mediocrity has paved the way for a comfortable and deserved win for Morricone.

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Though Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is deeply flawed, little criticism can be levelled at Ennio Morricone’s brilliant score.

Best Production Design

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max will prove very difficult to beat here. The world that Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson have created is nothing short of spectacular, bizarre, utterly original and, frankly, a cut above the rest. If there is any threat it will come from The Revenant, but a victory for Mad Max in this category seems a pretty safe bet.

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As original as it gets: the production design of Max Max: Fury Road is on course to win.

Best Costume Design

Will win: Cinderella
Should win: Cinderella

This year Sandy Powell could well be her own worst enemy. As was demonstrated by Jenny Beavan’s shock win for Mad Max: Fury Road at the BAFTAs two weeks ago, voters appear to be equally torn between Powell’s marvellous work on both Cinderella and Carol. Put simply, she is most likely splitting her own vote. It would be a great shame if this were to happen again on Sunday, as her costume design for Cinderella in particular is nothing short of sublime – one of the few highlights in an otherwise terrible film. Thankfully, her enchanting, fairytale designs are likely to have stolen the hearts of Academy voters, and with any luck will secure her a well-deserved win.

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The exquisite work of Sandy Powell is on fine display in 2015’s Cinderella.

Best Cinematography

Will win: The Revenant (Emmanuel Lubezki)
Should win: Carol (Ed Lachman)

Emmanuel Lubezki looks poised to make cinematography history by winning this award for a staggering third year in a row. It would certainly not be an undeserved win, as The Revenant is undoubtedly a visually-stunning film. It is just a shame, though, that the subtle and delicate beauty of Ed Lachman’s cinematography for Carol will go largely unnoticed by Academy voters.

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Should Emmanuel Lubezki secure a win for his work on The Revenant, he will become the first director of photography to win an Oscar three times consecutively.

Best Make-Up and Hair

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

There is one clear winner here. The work of the hair and make-up stylists in Mad Max: Fury Road is second to none.

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The hair and make-up in Mad Max is an example of the very best of its craft.

Best Visual Effects

Will win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

This year has been a particularly strong one for visual effects, and at a push it is Mad Max which most stands out amongst the nominees. But the sheer popularity of Star Wars means that no one will want to see it leave the Dolby Theatre empty-handed, and this could well be the category which ensures that it doesn’t.

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The much-beloved Star Wars stands its best chance at an award in the Best Visual Effects Category.

Best Sound Editing

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win: Max Max: Fury Road

This will be an award closely contested by the two technical giants of the year, The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road. Mad Max is certainly the ‘louder’ of the two films, and this will most likely play to its advantage.

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Loud and proud bold and brash: Mad Max is a likely winner of the award for Best Sound Editing.

Best Sound Mixing

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Once again, this is between The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road. Ultimately, though, as far as sound goes, any film which can boast a roaring monster truck ridden by a flame-throwing electric guitarist is going to be pretty difficult to beat.

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Trucks, amps, flamethrowers, guitars. Mad Max‘s sound mixers had their work cut out for them.

Best Editing

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Best Editing category will be another battleground in which Mad Max and The Revenant slog it out for the most technical awards of the night – and one that is perhaps slightly more suited to the former than the latter. The Revenant is a slow-moving beast of a film, whilst Mad Max surges forward – quite literally – at a considerable speed with a lot more to juggle.

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It will be a close race between Mad Max and The Revenant for the Best Editing award.

Best Animated Film

Will win: Inside Out
Should win: Inside Out

A sure thing. A dead cert. A done deal. Say it how you want, this award was always going to Inside Out.

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Disney Pixar have produced a wonderfully original and fresh film, inside and out.

Best Documentary

Will win: Amy
Should win: Amy

A prodigy and a tragedy. The story of Amy Winehouse’s painfully short life is more or less guaranteed a win here.

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The tragic story of Amy Winehouse looks guaranteed to secure an all-too-bittersweet victory.

Best Original Song

Will win: Til It Happens To You
Should win: Til It Happens To You

Lady Gaga’s haunting, oh-so-relevant Til It Happens To You has been highly praised and widely discussed since its release in September 2015. This victory will be a deserved one, and it will be an important one.

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Uncomfortable to watch but so very important: Lady Gaga’s Til It Happens To You.

The Oscars will be broadcast live from 1.30am GMT (8.30pm EST) on Sky Movies Oscars this Sunday.

BAFTA Awards 2016: Predictions

The highlight of the British film calendar is almost upon us. Tomorrow night, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood will sweep Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House as it plays host to the 69th British Academy Film Awards.

Though the BAFTAs are  widely considered as the precursor to the Oscars, the British Academy’s decisions are markedly more difficult to predict than those of their American counterparts. Whereas more often than not grit and spectacle are favoured across the pond, here there tends to be a stronger celebration of sentimentality and, of course, Britishness.

That said, the difficulty of getting predictions right in no way diminishes the fun involved in actually making them. Here are the thoughts of Pick of the Flicks on how it will all go down tomorrow night.

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BEST FILM

Will win: Spotlight
Should win: Carol

This year, the Best Film category is one of the hardest to call, the closest the competition has been for a number of years. Carol may be the strongest film of the five that have been nominated, but Spotlight and even The Revenant have more momentum behind them. Spotlight will probably win out, but the sheer number of nominations Carol has received (9, equalled only by Bridge of Spies) means that it might just have the potential to take home the biggest prize of the night.

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BEST ACTOR

Will win: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Should win: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Though The Revenant hardly sees DiCaprio at his best, there is no way any of his fellow nominees will come close to causing an upset. There is no competition here. It is just a shame that Room’s brilliant Jacob Tremblay did not receive the nomination he so thoroughly deserves.

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BEST ACTRESS

Will win: Brie Larson (Room)
Should win: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

If performance alone decided this, Alicia Vikander’s stunning turn in The Danish Girl would see her walk out of the Royal Opera House a winner. However, a strong performance from Brie Larson in Room, combined with the Oscar buzz surrounding her, likely means this will be Larson’s night. Saoirse Ronan stands a decent chance in this category, too, but the real race is between Vikander and Larson.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will win: Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Should win: Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)

BAFTA will surely lap up the chance to celebrate the man who is widely considered to be one of Britain’s finest stage actors. As such, Mark Rylance’s subtle, taciturn performance as Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies will be enough for a win here, even though Idris Elba’s turn as the brutish Commandant in Beasts of No Nation is stronger.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will win: Rooney Mara (Carol)
Should win: Rooney Mara (Carol)

Rooney Mara’s wonderful performance in Carol should make her the worthy winner of this particular award. But never underestimate the Brit Factor at the BAFTAs; Kate Winslet could well pip her at the post for her brilliant portrayal of Joanna Hoffman in Steve Jobs. Even Julie Walters could get a look in here for her small role as a strict housekeeper in Brooklyn, though this is unlikely.

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OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM

Will win: Brooklyn
Should win: Brooklyn

45 Years stands a very strong chance in this category. But Brooklyn is the more heartwarming of the two tales, and has certainly reached a wider audience, and that hopefully will be enough to score it a victory.

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BEST DIRECTOR

Will win: Alejandro  González Iñárritu (The Revenant)
Should win: Todd Haynes (Carol)

The spectacle of The Revenant may be enough to secure a win for Iñárritu, but Haynes’s careful, considered, and frankly brilliant direction of Carol makes him more deserving. However, Ridley Scott has real potential to cause an upset here. A popular Brit who has yet to win in this category, BAFTA may well decide that this could be his year.

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BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will win: Spotlight
Should win: Inside Out

The serious subject matter of Spotlight means that its tightly-plotted script is probably the favourite. The sheer originality of Inside Out (and even Ex Machina) would make it a more worthy winner, but it is unlikely that an animated film will win in this particular category.

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will win: Carol
Should win: Steve Jobs

Phyllis Nagy’s wonderfully intricate adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt has rightfully won her much praise in recent months, and will likely bag her a golden mask tomorrow night. However, Aaron Sorkin’s sharp, witty and cutting script for Steve Jobs deserves just as much recognition. Brooklyn has the potential to do well here, too, which makes for an interesting race in this category.

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BEST ANIMATED FILM

Will win: Inside Out
Should win: Inside Out

The makers of Minions and Shaun the Sheep: The Movie need not even turn up. This award belonged to Inside Out from the get-go.

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BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC

Will win: Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight)
Should win: Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight)

The brilliant, haunting work of Ennio Morricone in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is the shoo-in. John Williams poses no real threat for his underwhelming work in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, nor do any of the other nominees.

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will win: Carol
Should win: Carol

BAFTA are likely to recognise the gorgeous cinematography of Carol, but it faces tough competition from The Revenant and Bridge of Spies.

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BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian has the potential to do well here, but the creativity and originality that spawned the mad world of Mad Max will likely win out.

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BEST EDITING

Will win: The Revenant
Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

A tough race to call. At the front of the pack are The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, two films which have been lauded for their technical brilliance. But in the absence of winning any big awards, this could be one consolation prize that Bridge of Spies picks up.

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BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Will win: Cinderella
Should win: Cinderella

It is almost a dead cert that Sandy Powell will win this category. Though she stands a decent chance for winning for her work in Carol, the glamour of her costumes for Cinderella makes it an even stronger contender.

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BEST MAKE-UP AND HAIR

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

This is very much Mad Max’s to lose. And it is unlikely to.

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BEST SOUND

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win: The Revenant

Once again, this is a close race between the two technically brilliant films of the year, The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road. There is not much between them.

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BEST SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

The subtle but brilliant visual effects in Ex Machina are an intrinsic part of the film, but this is a category where spectacle wins out. The Martian and even Star Wars: The Force Awakens could do well here, but this is another gong which surely belongs to Mad Max.

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OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER

Will win: Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Should win: Alex Garland (Ex Machina)

Alex Garland’s widely-praised, highly-lauded is the only likely winner in this category.

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BEST DOCUMENTARY

Will win: Amy
Should win: Amy

Another category with very little competition. The tragic story of Amy Winehouse will tug on BAFTA’s heartstrings and surely bag the award.

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EE RISING STAR

Will win: John Boyega
Should win: John Boyega

Once more, this category boasts an impressive set of nominees. Bel Powley is the real underdog here, whilst Brie Larson and Dakota Johnson are also unlikely to win, despite their presence on the grand stage of Hollywood. Really, this is a showdown between two Brits, Taron Egerton and John Boyega. Egerton arguably has more strings to his bow, but the sheer likeability of Boyega, coupled with the Star Wars Effect, makes him the strong favourite.

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The BAFTAs will be broadcast at 9pm on BBC One on Sunday 14th February 2016.

Awards Season Special: Carol (2015)

★★★★★

Carol is director Todd Haynes’s gift to cinema. What begins as a chance meeting between two women in a department store develops slowly, delicately, tantalisingly into a deep and true bond of love, played out in the shadows of a society that would never understand. It is an exquisitely crafted, beautifully shot gem of a film that moves and delights.

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara shine in Todd Haynes’s Carol.

As Carol and Therese, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara dazzle throughout. Blanchett laces her character’s maturity and forwardness with traces of trepidation; so timid and vulnerable is she when hinting her true feelings to Therese that she is barely able to make eye contact. Mara, meanwhile, is even more impressive in her turn as the younger of the two lovers, weaving Therese’s innocence and inexperience with firm determination and resolve. These are two very different – dichotomous even – performances, wonderfully imbued with subtlety and nuance. They complement each other spectacularly and the dynamic between them is electric.

 What Haynes has delivered is in many ways a cinephile’s dream. It is gorgeously shot on Super 16mm film, lending such grainy depth and texture to the picture that each frame could well be a photograph. Meanwhile Sandy Powell’s reliably remarkable costume design adds both flavour and genuine believability to a New York of times gone by. Haynes makes strong reference to the great filmic romances which have preceded Carol, most notably David Lean’s brilliant Brief Encounter, from which it borrows certain gestures and an element of structure. In so doing, the film poises itself to claim its own place among the ranks of the great on-screen love stories of our time.

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It is wholly unsurprising that Carol has been met with near-universal thunderous critical acclaim. In one of their earliest meetings, Carol remarks that Therese is “flung out of space.” The film, like Therese, is positively stellar.

Awards Season Special: Sicario (2015)

★★★★

Tense and heart-pounding from the outset, the terrific Sicario sees young FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) enlisted and embroiled in a conflict between the US government and a Mexican drug cartel. This is a film where less is more; the performances are wonderfully understated and the set pieces are brilliantly restrained. The final product is less an action-heavy, border hopping, all-guns-blazing depiction of one small fragment of the war against drugs (though when it does do these things it does them well) and more a thought-provoking meditation on the way conflict blurs morality.

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Sicario (2015)

Emily Blunt’s acting muscle was established a decade ago in The Devil Wears Prada, but in Sicario she is given the chance to flex. She is the human touch in a cold, hardened world which her superiors inhabit and even perpetuate. Naturally, she is brilliant in every scene she is in, and one cannot help but share in her pain and frustration as Kate realises she is simply an innocent pawn who exists to be manipulated in a wider, sinister game. But where Blunt shines brightest is every moment she shares on screen with Benicio del Toro, whose chilling Alejandro Gillick represents the seemingly immoral, self-interested antithesis of who Macer understands herself to be.

The film establishes that ‘sicario’ is the Mexican word for ‘hitman’. How fitting, therefore, that on every technical level it hits the mark. Roger Deakins’ cinematography effortlessly creates the dark, dirty world of the drug battlefield, while Johan Johansson’s score is equally as potent and atmospheric. Even the sound of a single bullet as it punctuates a deathly silence is profoundly startling and unsettling, and it is unsurprising that Alan Robert Murray earned an Oscar nod for his sound work here.

Emily Blunt is the beating heart of Sicario.

Sicario is arguably most effective when it is still. Its finest, edge-of-the-seat action sequence takes place in a stationary traffic jam; the brutality of the drug cartel is made clear when lifeless, headless bodies are shown hanging from a bridge; the grounding realities of the danger of the drug trade are made most evident by an empty bed. It is ironic, then, that the stillness of individual moments, which take place across two countries divided by one static border, is what stands out in a film that is otherwise interested in the constantly shifting moral boundaries in an ongoing war.