In the many years since the War On Terror started many have forgotten that before the US of A targeted terror in it’s sights there was The War On Drugs.
Some of you may be too young to remember the promises made by the government at the time but you should be very aware that the damn thing never actually ended, but we stopped hearing about it so much because of the rise of terrorism seemed far more “news worthy”. This proves to be quite a worry as some of the shit the Mexican cartels in particular get up to is stunningly fucking BRUTAL; prone to slicing and dicing up innocents and the guilty alike and all in the name of money.
Faced with such inhumanity, law enforcement are presented with quite the quandary; after all, in the face of such monstrous men, how far do you push the law in order to bring such people to justice before the lines between the two sides become so blurred that you can’t tell the difference?
This is the exact quandary that plagues Emily Blunt in this quite fantastic thriller that also features Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro and is helmed by Denis Villeneuve whose current incendiary rise was thanks in part to this jaw-grindingly tense modern masterpiece.
Starting with an enthusiasticly gruesome discovery during an Arizona hostage rescue, where decomposing bodies are found lined up within the dry walls of a house in Texas, Blunt’s raw, yet talented FBI specialist is offered an invitation by brazenly shifty, scandal-wearing spook Brolin to join his team. The mission: take down the men responsible for this atrocity and maybe bring some inner peace to herself after a booby trap at the location killed some fellow officers. However, what she actually gets is a one way ticket down a rabbit-hole of deceit, murder and more dismemberings than a Predator’s stag do.
Muddying the waters is Del Toro’s sinister hanger-on. Quietly threatening and wearing Lee Van Cleef’s eyelids, he sizes everyone up through squinted eyes like an insomnia suffering great white stuffed in a human skin. Who is he? What is he there for? What the hell is going on?!
Sicario’s trump card (no pun intended considering most of the film concerns the Mexican border), and the main source of it’s boundless tension, is that we see everything through the wide disbelieving eyes of Blunt’s Kate Macer. We can only piece together the plot when she does, so as an audience member, having no clue why everything’s happening makes for wonderfully harrowing viewing. Like Kate, we can not effect what’s happening, we can only react when and if it happens and often far too late.
But react we do and usually with an extremely elevated heart rate. That tension I mentioned earlier? It’s ratcheted to extreme levels, especially during a excruciatingly nerve racking drive across the Mexican border with a prisoner in tow only to be greeted with an impenetrable traffic jam grid locking the way back. Sitting in broiling traffic has never been as sphincter tighteningly unbearable as this and the wait for the inevitable exchange of bullets shreds every last nerve to the point that when someone finally makes their move is almost a relief.
The performances are all excellent with Blunt and Del Toro delivering incredibly worthy work that – bafflingly – wasn’t even nominated. Blunt, especially, channels huge reserves of inner strength as she wades through a macho world seemingly bereft of trust or actual justice, a concept alien to her somewhat naive ideals.
Across the moral devide, slouching on a metaphorical throne of lies, like it’s a Laz-E-Boy forged of hypocrisy, is Brolin’s cynical spook and the actor is having a high old time portraying this amoral shit-heel who revels in doing his job in upholding the law in the most lawless ways he possibly can and the icing on the cake is Del Toro’s icy wild card, a lethal, mysterious chunk of stoicism who the actor without saying any more than he has to.
The way the film is shot is impeccable too with the stark, bleak visuals matching the film’s morally murky tone and the fact that the director has since assended into mega-budgeted filmmaking with Blade Runner 2049 while still keeping that sharp intelligence proves that his upcoming Dune adaptation should be something truly special.
While not exactly a film big on uplifting endings or silver linings (it’s actually a magnificent downer), you really can’t do much better for flawless, grim thrills and the central performances, intelligent script and flawless execution (pun intended).
Sicario may mean hitman to Mexicans (thanks, clunky poster tag-line) but to you it’ll mean top-drawer entertainment.