An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.
Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s excellent film about the drug war on the US/Mexican border is a gripping, taut thriller from the man responsible for the intense kidnap thriller ‘Prisoners’. Written by Taylor Sheridan (probably known to most in an acting role as Deputy Chief Hale on TV’s ‘Sons of Anarchy’), the script shows a clear understanding of the complexities of the drug war around the Mexican border, and the narrative cleverly explores the shades of grey that surround the men operating in this dangerous environment. From the outset, ’Sicario’ sets its stall out as a film that is not going to be an easy watch, and similar to ‘Prisoners’ there’s a hard edge to the film’s atmosphere, with Johann Johansson’s gritty orchestral score adding to the powerfully grim feeling.
Emily Blunt’s Kate Macer is our vantage point into the action, a strait laced FBI agent with a firm belief in process and procedure, and her performance is strong even when her character sometimes lacks subtlety in her approach to the situation. In a disturbing opening sequence, her FBI squad discover a house filled with dead bodies before a deadly explosion leaves her shaken, and when given the opportunity to make a real difference, Macer grabs it with both hands without fully comprehending the situation she is getting herself into. This brings her into contact with Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), a special agent who has been tasked to lead a team of men into Mexico to directly target the people responsible. Josh Brolin has that Southern America charm in droves and he provides the only moments of light in a film that is relentlessly dark for the most part. His partner is Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), a former Mexican prosecutor now working with authorities on the other side of the border. Benicio del Toro’s performance is mesmerising, an enigma standing on the sidelines for most of the runtime, but when he gets his opportunity he bursts into life with a darkly intense turn. Awards recognition deserves to come his way.
The action scenes in the film are deftly handled, directed with incredible suspense and skill to build up an ominous sense of foreboding, but these are merely the sequences that tie the story together. ‘Sicario’ is not a film primarily concerned with action, with its main focus on the murky morality and compromise required for law enforcement to operate in one of the most dangerous places on earth. Overall, ‘Sicario’ is a dark, compelling thriller about the war on drugs, driven by superb central performances from Blunt and del Toro in particular. Combining this with an intelligent script, terrific direction, Roger Deakins excellent cinematography and Johann Johansson’s ominous score make for one of the year’s best films.
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, Daniel Kaluuya, Victor Garber, Maximiliano Hernández, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Trujillo and Julio Cedillo