Director : Denis Villeneuve
Written by : Taylor Sheridan
Walking into Sicario I felt qualified. Reading Dan Winslow's excellent Cartel at the time meant that I knew my Juarez's from my Laredo's and I while I may never 'know Mexico', I knew what to expect from a movie about drugs in Mexico.
It started out with an opening set piece that established Kate Macer's (Emily Blunt) proficiency with a gun and her fastidious following of procedure. A follow-up meeting of the higher ups gave us more background on her, but just when you started to think that it's going to be a standard good guys versus bad guys thriller, we get a glimpse of Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro and everything changes.
I saw the film on a big screen with big sound but I didn't understand a word of Alejandro's responses to Kate's questions about Mexico. It didn't matter. Del Toro's haunted face created a mystery by it's very presence. Like a weathered Brad Pitt, he matches movie star charisma with the character actor depth to represent the question mark that his role requires. Friend or foe? Wolf or sheep? Mexican or American, maybe even Columbian? Kate verbalises our thoughts but his answers only muddy the already opaque waters further.
Del Toro has become so compelling to watch that even him simply folding his jacket before an operation is something to savour. If Sicario 2 was subtitled "Alejandro opens a Laundromat" I'd be first in line.
But this is essentially a war movie, an undeclared war perhaps, where the goodies are hard to differentiate from the baddies, but despite being surrounded by soldiers, Kate takes awhile to catch on. She works for the FBI, an agency that should be focussed only on American soil, and the central tension of the film is her struggle over what she is seeing and the borders that are crossed (and tunnelled under). Despite assurances from her boss that the operation is cleared from the top, her conscience is not satisfied and Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) isn't helping. He can switch from rubber thongs to kevlar vests as quickly as he can fall asleep in a plane, but it's his slightly false smile that makes us (and Kate) start to think that he might be selling something that she doesn't want.
What follows in a tense and gripping decent into the otherworld of the drug war and a sense that whatever is happening is nowhere near enough. While we don't see too much of the drugs themselves, the array of corpses in varying states of mutilation underline the seriousness of the struggle over their control.
Ninety minutes in I began to wonder about the title and thought that maybe the filmakers went with Sicario because it sounded cool. The dawning awareness of my error turned out to be one of the more satisfying pivots in recent movie memory as the scope of the story shifts focus from the broad sweep of Government and interagency confusion to become the simple, singular story that it always actually was.
A Must see