‘Sicario’ Director Denis Villeneuve On His Buzzed-About Film And The Extraordinary Power Of Drug Cartels

Denis Villeneuve
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Look, I don’t even try to hide the fact that Denis Villeneuve is one of my favorite filmmakers working today. (And the fact that he often shoots his movies with Roger Deakins, as he does with Sicario, just enhances that fact.) Two years ago, the French-Canadian director had two movies here at the Toronto International Film Festival: The underseen Prisoners and the grossly underseen Enemy, both movies that brim with so much tension that they are almost physically uncomfortable to watch. Right now, Villeneuve is bringing tension to movies in a way not many other people are doing.

Now he has Sicario, a movie that stars Emily Blunt as an FBI agent who is recruited by a lot of mysterious people (Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro among them) for secret missions into Mexico in an effort to disrupt the drug cartels. It’s a movie that revolves around the drug cartels, but isn’t really about the drug cartels. (And, yes, it’s very tense.)

I met Villeneuve at his hotel here in Toronto to talk to him about what has become a huge hit here at the festival (and, lucky for people not in Toronto, it opens domestically on September 18) and discusses why Emily Blunt (who we interviewed on Friday) was absolutely perfect for his role. He also gives us a sneak peak at his next film, which he compared to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (and then immediately regretted that for setting the bar too high).

It would be simplistic to call this a movie about the drug trade.

I don’t think it’s about the drug trade, it’s a movie about black ops.

But to sell it, you kind of have to say “drug trade.”

Yeah, yeah, it’s kind of universal. For me, it’s more about a black operation led by the CIA. And, for me, it’s a movie about America – Westerners – we are trying sometimes to solve our problems with violence outside of our boarders. And it’s a movie that raises questions about this way of doing things. But the movie could have been set in the Middle East or Africa. That movie could have been about ISIS in a way.