In Mexico, Sicario means Hitman
From director Denis Villeneuve, Sicario follows Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) as she is recruited by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) into an elite government task force with the objective of tackling the drug war head on around the Mexican/U.S. border. Assisting Graver in the task force is Alejandro (Benencio Del Toro), a man with dark past and unknown motives. As the task forces begins it’s any means necessary plan of action, Kate finds herself conflicted between her ideals and getting the job done, and the closer they get to their goal, the more dangerous it gets.
Sicario is a damn fine film. Denis Villeneuve is gaining momentum as a master weaver of tension and story, those who have seen his 2013 film Prisonsers will know this already. What is impressive about Villeneuve’s films are that they rarely embellish and over dramatise events to make the action seem more important than it is, Sicario is within this mould. It is patiently paced and steadily builds up to action in sequences with a smartly executed minimalistic score, that acts like an rhythmic heartbeat in the background of the action, pacing up and down with the flow of the tension. These scenes when executed, are riveting and tense.
The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at this years Cannes Film Festival and for good reason. It’s an excellent exercise in pitting the idealistic and the pragmatic against one another in a war with no right answer. Kate’s idealism in following procedure to gain arrests constantly comes into conflict with the pragmatic act first actions of Matt & Alejandro. The beauty of Sicario is that it doesn’t lean to heavily on either parties ideas on how to get the job done. Most films with a morally idealistic lead usually use their views as the absolute right way to do things, but not here. Sure, everybody wants to lean towards the purist form of justice but when you have two cars full of gun-toting Mexican cartel members amongst civilians, is the best thing to do arrest them?
Though Emily Blunt is kind of the main lead, the film is really led by the triumvirate of Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benecio Del Toro. The latter though not always on screen has a presence throughout the entire film that is hard to ignore. Though Emily Blunt’s character of Kate has identifiable transparent goals in taking down the people who break the law, the other two are a bit more murky. At best Matt Graver is translucent with his details on the task at hand, and Del Toro’s Alejandro is completely opaque until the final act. The restriction on details of the bigger picture that Kate desperately tries to unravel keep the film thoroughly engrossing, Graver only divulges information on a need to know basis leaving us to learn at the same time as Kate, never letting us get ahead of the game and as a result on the edge of our seats until all is said and done.
The film is full of solid performances, regardless of screen time and importance. Jon Berenthal, Jeffrey Donovan and Maximiliano Hernández all feature in smaller roles that are no less important to the overall story and are, as always, a pleasure to watch. However the performances of the lead three are by far and wide as impressive as we have ever seen them, but are we really surprised? Surely we know by now that Blunt is a fine actress and that Del Toro is as immersive an actor as we are ever likely to see.
Do yourself a favour and see this film, it’s smart, gripping and an absolutely fantastic watch.