Brian SteidleLiterature and Film H1/16/18Sicario, Blade Runner 2049,And the power of cinematography Roger Deakins’ awe-inspiring cinematography, intense shots, and a less-is-more attitude determine the tone in Sicario and Blade Runner 2049, both directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Villeneuve played a major role in crafting the score for Sicario, while Hans Zimmer constructed what many say was the best soundtrack of the year. For Blade Runner 2049 With the pair of films, Villeneuve and Deakins employ properly balanced, airy, and reclusive shots to create enigmatic and oblique worlds. Featureless shots of open landscapes transcends the viewer and purloins them from the reality around them. Born and raised in the city of Trois-Rivieres, Canada, Denis Villeneuve attended Séminaire Saint-Joseph de Trois-Rivières and later Université du Québec à Montréal. After a series of short films shot in french, Villeneuve made his American film debut with Prisoners.
In the same year, Villeneuve released the psychological thriller Enemy. The main trademark of Denis Villeneuve’s films is his music choice. In the preponderance of his films, Villeneuve uses moody, contemplative, and otherworldly radiohead songs to create the stark and powerful images created by deakins. This is predominantly noticed in his last French-language film, Incendies, which features Radiohead’s You and Whose Army. Villeneuve commented, “‘You and Whose Army’ has the kind of emotions, melancholy, and a kind of operatic feeling to it that I wanted to capture in that scene.” (Chang, Q. 12).
Sicario, Villeneuves tenth film, is mostly set in the desolate environment of southern Texas, and northern mexico. The film follows Kate Macer as she is transferred from an FBI Critical Incident Response Group to a DOJ special joint task force whose objective is to bring down one of two major mexican cartels controlling the area, the Sonora and the Medellin cartels. DOJ special joint task force is primarily made up of Matt Graver, the overseer of the team, a mysterious man named Alejandro, and Kate. After a series of raids, the team is finally lead to the leader of the Sonora cartel, Guillermo Diaz. Little did Kate know, Alejandro is apart of the Sonara cartel’s rival gang, the Medellin cartel. The DOJ task force realizes that the only realistic way to return order is to eliminate one of the cartels and allow a single cartel to run the drug trade. One of the major objectives of the movie is to show the astonishing level of corruption in some law enforcement.
In all of Villeneuve’s movies, cinematography is the focal point. Villeneuve and the film’s cinematographer, Roger Deakins, utilize reflections and natural, dark lighting to make the film more realistic and horrifying. Villeneuve showed this by saying “I think cinema is a tool to explore our shadows.” (IMDb). A scene from the opening act depicts Kate in the shower, washing the blood out her hair from a previous raid, which deakins has said is an ode to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The scene is shot with a fifty millimeter lens, and only uses natural light.
To her right is a frosted glass door to act as a diffusion, and the red color of the blood contrasts with her beige skin tone. This meticulousness and drudgery can be seen in every shot in the film. The amount of detail put into the film is what makes it a modern masterpiece. 2018 was an incredible year for film, one of the best in recent memory. One film that I come back to and have rewatched a number of times is Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049.
The film is a continuation of the themes found in the original all the while introducing new ideas. It both stand on its own and enhances the previous film. Much like its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 is obsessed with one simple question: What does it mean to be human?