From improbably remote arthouse origins, Québécois director Denis Villeneuve is turning into quite hot Hollywood property. A couple of years after his Middle Eastern melodrama “Incendies” scored an Oscar nomination, his austere formal gifts and taste for high-concept tragedy combined to make his starry but profoundly bleak kidnap thriller “Prisoners” a risky mainstream hit last autumn. The smaller-scale surrealist exercise “Enemy,” which premiered near-simultaneously at Toronto and was released in the US last month, took him back to specialty territory, but showed he has enough clout to attract an A-lister like Jake Gyllenhaal to a very eccentric indie. All options are effectively open to him.
With that in mind, it looks like he's returning to the multiplex, lining up not one but two mainstream genre projects with, encouragingly enough, lead roles for major female stars. Emily Blunt is in talks for police thriller “Sicario,” which Villeneuve will follow up immediately with science-fiction project “Story of Your Life,” which Amy Adams is reportedly dallying with. The guy likes to work.
“Sicario” will tentatively star Blunt as an Arizona police officer on the trail of a drug lord; her chase takes her to Mexico in the company of two mercenaries. It's been a while since there was a notable female-driven cop thriller; this should hopefully require more of the hard-bitten side that Blunt memorably tapped into in “Looper.” “Sicario” will reunite Villeneuve with “Prisoners” producer Edward McDonnell, with “The Town” producer Basil Iwanyk also on board.
“Story of Your Life,” meanwhile, will potentially star Adams as a linguist recruited by the military to make contact with imminently invading extra-terrestrials; Eric Heisserer (“Final Destination 5,” “Hours”) has based the script on a short story by Ted Chiang. FilmNation is producing the project, with the production duo of Shawn Levy and Dan Levine (“The Internship”) on board. Shooting will begin in early 2015.
Not a bunch of names and credits you'd expect to mash together, but I'm very interested to see how Villeuneuve handles both these projects — I may have suffered a severe allergic reaction to “Incendies,” but he's now shaping up as a very interesting crossover figure indeed.