Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya
Plot: An idealistic FBI agent is recruited to a task force with a mission to fight the war on drugs at the American-Mexican border. But soon she discovers that things are not exactly as it seems.
Review: I walked into Sicario thinking it would be a gritty action thriller, but it's not quite that entirely. It's gritty for sure, but not the slam bang actioner I was expecting. Perhaps that's why I'm a bit underwhelmed. My mistake nonetheless.
Sicario, which in Mexico means hitman, begins with the FBI raiding a house and discovering dozens of corpses, followed by a huge bomb going off. Agent in charge Kate Macer is then recruited by Matt Graver, who is leading a task force to find the people responsible for the incident. Kate is led to the Mexican border and meets Alejandro, a mysterious man who seems like the Mexican version of a federal agent, but then again not quite. Slowly but surely, Kate is dragged into a world of violence and lies, and she's in over her head.
Denis Villeneuve, who directed the excellent Prisoners, successfully shows us the dirty and violent world of the drug cartels here. He works once again with cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Johann Johannsson to create a dark and scary atmosphere. Deakins' lens captures in great detail and style, the brutality of the action scenes as well as the sweeping aerial shots and even the night vision sights of a soldier's gear. A particular shot of the squad walking into the darkness as the sun sets is just beautiful. And Johannsson excels in creating the right mood using huge bass sounds and violins.
Emily Blunt is great in her role as Kate here, being the audience's eyes and ears. At the start, she is as much in the dark of her role in all this as we are, and the deeper she digs, the worse it gets. Her high sense of morality though can be a bit frustrating even to the audience, but it inevitably makes her human. As good as Blunt is though, it's Benicio Del Toro that shines the brightest as Alejandro. He's just terrific as a man of few words and holds all his cards to his chest. He's Mr Cool for the most part, but the kind of guy you don't want to cross, which he effectively proves in the film's climax. Josh Brolin is also solid as Matt, the shady government agent orchestrating their mission. He's sort of the bad cop to Blunt's good cop, except he, like Alejandro, knows more than he's letting on.
The film does feel draggy in parts, particularly during scenes involving a Mexican policeman named Silvio (played by Agents of SHIELD's Maximiliano Hernandez) and his young son. Silvio has a part to play towards the film's climax, so I'm aware of why Villeneuve focused on him, but it could use some editing. The plot is also rather complicated at times, which is made clearer towards the end, but it may test one's patience.
In the end, Sicario is a story of a world that is constantly in a state of grey, and one heroine who looks at everything in black or white becomes a victim when she steps into it. To this viewer, it's less compelling than Villeneuve's masterpiece Prisoners, but it's a solid film nonetheless. (7/10)