Complex and multi-layered revenge thriller set on the US-Mexican border, starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin.
On the face of it, Sicario comes across as yet another 24-style FBI/CIA drama as the good guys face off against the hispanic drug cartels and in many ways it is precisely that.
But after the opening half hour or so you begin to realise there’s a lot more to the story than meets the eye.
There’s plenty of cloak-and-dagger shenanigans from get-go with the various federal agencies playing off against each other, all of them claiming responsibility for the operation to win the cross-border drugs war.
Up-and-coming FBI agent Kate Macer (Blunt) seems out of her depth – and Blunt completely miscast – as she’s asked to volunteer for an inter-agency taskforce led by the enigmatic Alejandro (Del Toro) and the brash and abrasive government official, Matt Graver (played by Josh Brolin). She’s young, she’s raw, but she’s got a flawless record flushing out minor cartel figures and the has the respect of those around her, despite her relative lack of experience. She’s a sharp cookie .. so sharp in fact that she’s immediately suspicious of the operation. After quizzing her would-be bosses, the plot begins to unfold and Macer discovers the plan is to use one of the gang bosses to flush out the big fish who runs the Mexican cartel. It’s a dangerous game of cat and mouse and one in which she knows she’s the mouse.
Always hovering but rarely saying anything there is the mysterious Alejandro. Obviously Latino, Macer tries to pin him down during the initial drive across the border, but he’s reluctant to give anything away, seemingly trusting no-one.
As the taskforce moves into Mexico and out of US jurisdiction one thing becomes clear: this is a black op. What happens in Juarez, stays in Juarez.
The cinematography is beautiful throughout Sicario and the dusty oppression of the Mexican desert has never looked better. The dialogue is sparce but effective when it’s used and the whole script feels like it was written by the military for the military, such is its utilitarian nature.
The rest of the story is slowly opened up with each passing scene, though the effect is so measured, so well done, that the audience feels just as in the dark as Macer herself, almost like the movie is moving faster than our brains can keep up .. almost.
The balance is perfect so that what little information does dribble down to us feels exactly like drops of water from a rapidly emptying canteen as we trudge wearily across the desert itself …
Alejandro is the key.
The film is actually about him.
And to quote Forrest Gump “.. and that’s all I have to say about that.”
No spoilers from me, but believe me when I say this is just about the most stylish, well-constructed and creative thriller I’ve seen in years.
The casting is actually spot-on – Blunt was right for a role that ten years ago may have gone to Sandra Bullock. Del Toro, as ever, steals every scene he’s in, while Brolin plays the swaggering, cock-sure government official to a tee.
The music is superb throughout, using the same down-tempo four-note riff to signify danger over and over, which adds greatly to the tension. As with The Martian there was barely a rustle in the packed auditorium as nobody wanted to miss a thing, even more so given the dialogue was so minimal.
Sicario is a superlative picture and one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.
If you like serious drama and enjoy a bit of mystery, do yourself a favour and see it now.