What It’s About
Bleak and unnerving, “Sicario” reaffirms that there are no winners in the War on Drugs.
This ferocious action thriller unspools a complex, procedural look at a rogue task force seeking to dismantle a major Mexican cartel that has encroached on the American Southwest.
A dynamic trio of versatile Emily Blunt as a by-the-book FBI agent, effortless Josh Brolin and ominous Benecio del Toro keeps you riveted — and guessing about this mysterious interagency team, who use unorthodox methods to get results.
Viewers are kept in the dark, and that off-guard feeling is often unsettling. Danger lurks around every corner, and tension is thick, especially in a frenetic set piece involving a traffic jam at the border.
Director Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners”) knows how to ratchet up anxiety and use explosive action, and does not shy away from graphic violence — and here, the mayhem is brutal. After all, in Juarez, Mexico, maimed corpses are hung as “messages” from the controlling drug lords.
Del Toro (“Traffic”) is mesmerizing as the vengeance-seeking Alejandro — and Brolin (“Everest”) is a magnetic standout as well as the unconventional ringleader Matt.
Blunt (“Into the Woods”) demonstrates her versatility by playing the hard-edged Kate, whose morality and ethics clash with the guys. She won’t bend, and neither will they.
But the characters were not as fully realized as they should have been to give this film some emotional heft.
Peerless cinematographer Roger Deakins masterfully sets the mood by depicting desolation and barren landscapes in Arizona, Texas and Mexico.
The editing enhances the film’s intensity, which takes you to the edge and back.
What Doesn’t Work
Villeneuve is a director who doesn’t believe in black-and-white solutions, and works best in gray areas. That can be frustrating if you want answers. The murkiness of the story sometimes gets in the way.
The music score gets heavy-handed at times, comparable to the foreboding score to “Terminator 2.”
The topic was tackled in the Oscar-winning “Traffic” (2000),and the despair continues with this contemporary look at the gory, grim details.
3 stars out of 4
- Director: Denis Villeneuve
- Starring: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benecio del Toro, Jon Bernthal
- Rated: R for strong violence, grisly images, and language
- Length: 2:01