“Sicario” describes, with surgical precision, the fatal and bloody desecration of Mexico as a result of its decades long cartel war. And it does so by compressing this almost endless tragedy into a two-hour tour-de-force of filmmaking.
At its center we find idealistic FBI-Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), who is recruited to pursue a Mexican drug-baron. She is being guided by a seemingly untouchable covert assassin named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). Their investigation and methods are pushed further into unknown territory where justice and morality are no longer valid. The end not only justifies the means, it requires them.
Denis Villeneuve’s masterful piece exemplifies not only filmmaking of the highest order, but carves out a place alongside the terrible news reports as a deeply regretful, angry and at times almost unbearable look into the abyss of a socio-political nightmare that is fueled by first world-habit and global economics.
Through the powerful performances by Blunt, Del Toro and Josh Brolin in the leads as well as the excellent supporting cast, do we get a sense of the human cost (physical and psychological), which the war on drugs has taken.
From an exploding prison population, to the destruction of Mexican agriculture, to refugees and a cycle of violence that is beyond barbarity; the pull that “Sicario” exerts over the viewer is undeniable and by skirting the limits of bearable tension, without ever becoming exploitive, it is never giving an inch concerning its subject matter.
Few movies this year will have such a clear and defined structure and unflinching approach towards a situation that appears to be beyond salvation, while showing at the same time, that life nevertheless continues.
Taylor Sheridan’s script doesn’t miss a single beat and without sidestepping anything frees itself from beaten movie conventions by using familiar elements in an extremely skillful manner.
All these themes, stories and characters are captured through the lens of veteran Roger Deakins (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) who lets us always know how the micro- and macro-particles of any conflict are inextricably intertwined. We share the vistas of beautiful sceneries while having to witness their downfall.
Whatever ideals the likes of Emiliano Zapata once had, their country has now, as it is described in the movie, become ”the land of wolves”.
Fifteen years ago Steven Soderbergh’s ”Traffic” which earned numerous Oscars, not the least of which went to Benicio Del Toro, made a clear statement about the various strands the drug trafficking business touches. Now, all those years later we see in ”Sicario” that even the faintest of hopes that ”Traffic” held onto have been eviscerated.
What now? One might ask.
9 out of 10 stars