The movie Sicario had a good weekend on the art house theater circuit. The film starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin involves an FBI agent who is brought into a hunt for a drug lord. Aside from the start power, the movie is directed by Denis Villeneuve who has been tapped as director for the upcoming Blade Runner sequel, shot by superstar DP Roger Deakins, and is scored by Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose previous efforts include the music for The Theory of Everything, the Stephen Hawking biopic. Sicario could not be tonally farther from that film if it dared try.
The biggest problem with Jóhannsson’s score for Sicario is the material he is required to score to. It is a tense thriller, and therefore does not subject itself to the colors that other movies would allow for. What we get then are movie cues that I’m sure work perfectly in the context of the film, which is goal #1 of course, but cannot stand up as a soundtrack album.
There should be no interpretation from the previous statements that the pieces are lackluster, but they definitely have a sameness to them across the recording. Recalling Hans Zimmer’s work with Christopher Nolan, the infrastructure of the pieces is all undulating bass notes with propulsive rhythms shoving the action forward. It is hunting music for a movie about a hunt. After some time with it, however, it felt to these ears like so many slight variations on the same theme.
Those who will champion the film will likely credit the score for enhancing the drama, as it should. As a standalone listening experience though, Jóhannsson’s Sicario is all edge-of-the-seat but nowhere else to go.