Set against the vapid and treacherous backdrop of the U.S-Mexico border, Sicario takes us into the dangerous world of drug-trafficking as seen through the lives of covert ops who aim to stop it or at least deescalate it.
FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is assigned to a special government task force spearheaded by a shady government agent ‘Matt’ (Josh Brolin) to help bring down the ever escalating war on drugs, however when Kate finds out there’s much more to the mission and her mysterious team-member Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) than she was told about, things start getting complicated and soon she begins question her moral grounds and the mission she is a part of.
Never since Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic has a film gone into the depths of cartel trade quite like Sicario does, but Sicario isn’t just a gritty exploration of cartel trade, but also a film with a very unique and shady moral conscience that keeps us thinking every step of the way.
Sicario follows on the almost visceral style of storytelling Denis Villeneuve previously delved into with both Prisoners and Enemy, but Villenueve’s attention to creating tension, suspense and some genuinely exhilarating set-pieces is far more measured this time around. From the explosive opening scene, Villeneuve has our attention and throughout the course of the film he engrosses me only more as he stages one gut-wrenching scene after another while also providing moments of restraint and mood and a lot of the credit goes to the excellent support he gets from Taylor Sheridan’s focused and sharply scripted screenplay as well as a trio of fantastic performances from Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro.
Emily Blunt, building on the promise of Edge of Tomorrow does great as idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer bringing both vulnerability and subtlety to her performance, whereas Josh Brolin sits at the center chewing gum in the best way as the cool-headed government agent ‘Matt’ injecting some much-needed levity and comic relief into the film but ultimately it’s Benicio Del Toro who steals the show in a wonderfully understated but wholly charismatic performance as the enigmatic Alejandro.
And kudos to the technical brilliance of this film, most of which goes to veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins who does an absolutely magnificent job behind the camera, turning even the bland and lifeless terrain of the U.S-Mexico border into a picturesque and gorgeous panorama radiating with colors. While Johan Johannsson edgy and jittery original score is so integral in capturing the mood of the film.
If there’s any area where Sicario does falls short it’s the somewhat sluggish second act where there seems to be an abundance of exposition when in fact, the film’s strong-point is the lack of exposition and rather the visual approach to storytelling employed by Villeneuve. Thankfully though, the film more than makes up for this misstep in superbly orchestrated final act.
All in all, Sicario is easily one of the best films of he year. It’s gripping, taut, powerfully acted and offers a haunting take on the war on drugs. Denis Villeneuve continues to prove that he’s one of the hottest directors working today, I can’t wait to see what he does with Blade Runner and what’s also great is that Benicio Del Toro is phenomenal in this movie, and at times, his performance is enough of a reason to see this film.