Film review: Sicario (2015)

15 | 121 min
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Stars: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro

“Sicario” follows an idealistic (or naive!) FBI agent, Kate Macer (Blunt), recruited to a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

The secrtive and brutal methods of a mysterious and sinister agent Alejandro (Del Toro) and her superior Matt (Brolin) owe more to CIA black ops than police work. Sicario starts from the premise that normal, lawful methods have failed to win the ‘war on drugs’. No one in the film challenges that assumption. Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (also starring Benicio Del Toro), showed how the drug trade influenced so many areas of life and how difficult it was to deal with. Now Sicario starts from the point that the war on drugs is lost and that the rulebook has to be thrown out of the window even to manage the trade.

Emily Blunt is convincing in her understated performance of a conflicted agent who is way out of her depth. Critics have said that Kate Macer is strong. That’s not my view. Macer compromises and shows weakness throughout. Whenever faced with a difficult moral choice she goes against her beliefs. She always submits to Alejandro and Matt eventually. I think she does that because, despite her moral qualms, she understands that they have the only practical solutions. That’s a dark message but perhaps a true one.

Sicario is a fascinating film with a thought-provoking theme. The set-piece action sequences (the opening raid, The Border crossing, the night- vision/tunnel sequence and the dinner scene) are nail-biting and intense.So it’s no wonder that the film has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 95%, based on 175 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. Small wonder that Lionsgate has already commissioned a sequel, centering on del Toro’s character. The project is being overseen by writer Taylor Sheridan with Villeneuve also involved.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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