“You’re not a wolf, and this is a land of wolves, now.”
For the 1,387,466th time…in Mexico, Sicario means hitman. In what looks like a routine day on the job (or as routine as a day can be for an FBI agent), kidnapping response specialist Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) stumbles into a situation she cannot be prepared for in Chandler, Arizona. The aftermath of the situation isn’t one she can clean herself of, and as a result, she desperately wants to help. Picking up on this, a specialized task force leader named Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), asks her to be a part of the mission.
What is the mission? To take down one of the biggest cartels smack dab in the middle of the United States and Mexico, or in Graver’s words, “The real men responsible” for the carnage seen in Chandler. Giving help to the mission is Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro), an enigmatic figure whom little is known about, except that he’s capable to handle this hell. As time goes on in this mission, the idealistic Kate begins to find that right and wrong aren’t all that far away from each other. Welcome to Juarez.
Two films come to mind after seeing Sicario. One obviously being Traffic, with both focusing on the war on drugs, and the other actually being No Country for Old Men, which yours truly will come back to. All three of these films are great in their own right for many reasons, but Sicario firmly establishes itself as the best of that group, and taken outside of that group it is an awesome view, regardless.
The first reason? Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) and cinematographer Roger Deakins are the early 2000’s reincarnation of the Shaq and Kobe duo in cinema production form. Every shot is meticulous, meaningful, and worthy of the viewer’s attention, even the most quiet of moments. Like Shaq and Kobe in their tandem heyday, these guys bring the tension, but they know how to make it ebb and flow. It truly is unnerving at times, the feeling even more driven home by the rumbling and unsettling score composed by one of the best today in Johann Johannsson.
Written by Taylor Sheridan (Sons of Anarchy), Sicario focuses on whether the war on drugs is worth the fight at all, by focusing on the age-old theme of order v.s. chaos. Should chaos be fought with chaos? Is there order to be found in a scenario that seemingly has none? There are a few questions left unanswered in the plot, which is a bit frustrating. But, to yours truly at least, that is part of the statement that Villeneuve is making. Not everything can be answered, and maybe nor should it, and perhaps the sooner one comes to that realization, the better off they’ll be.
As Kate, Emily Blunt is essentially the audience’s eyes to the horrors witnessed. She puts on a brave face in the face of danger, but she is honest to herself and knows this isn’t where she belongs. And it gets to her, and Blunt conveys the uncertainty and bewilderment that Kate has with every step in the mission. She’s all about order and doing things the right way, though she does come off at a little too wide-eyed here and there. Nonetheless, great work by Blunt, whose character is kind of reminiscent from an alignment standpoint of Tommy Lee Jones’ character in NCFOM. Her partner that appears throughout is Reggie Wayne, played by Daniel Kaluuya. Kaluuya is fine, but his role adds little, if anything, to the story. If removed, nothing is missed.
Josh Brolin provides some brief lightness to an otherwise bleak tale. That doesn’t mean his character is a joke, but Graver is unconventional; lighthearted and serious at the same time, with an agenda that few know about. Brolin and Blunt are very strong, but like 2000’s Traffic, there is one man that seizes the attention from his other talented co-stars: Benicio Del Toro. From the second he comes off of a plane, Alejandro is a mesmerizing character. There’s something that screams mystery in the way he carries himself, how he speaks in the occasional riddle, etc. He’s very Anton Chigurh-ish in that sense, but with way more layers. One of the better characters of the year, easily.
Tense, realistic (at least it feels like it), wonderfully well-acted, and above all technically proficient, Sicario is smaller-scoped look at the war on drugs, but one that never wanes in intensity whatsoever. In Mexico, Sicario means hitman. To me, Sicario means a very, very superb film.
Photo credits go to screenrant.com, moviepilot.com, and fubiz.net.
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