Sicario starts with the explanation of the word itself. First, the film says that the word was used to describe the “zealots in Jerusalem”. The next explanation is that is means ‘hitman’. I don’t know what the implied correlation is, but okay. The film stars Emily Blunt as FBI agent, Kate Mercer who has been “Kicking down doors since she started” in the FBI, as described by her boss, Dave Jennings (Victor Garber. After a bust reveals an absolutely ghastly scene, Mercer is teamed up with the shady Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and an even shadier, Alejandro (Benicio del Toro). Where Graver is upbeat, brazenly confident, Alejandro is quietly observant and seems to be more of a shadow than a person. Mercer is offered a chance to work with Graver and his team to try and out the leader of a major drug cartel in Central America. She accepts, but almost immediately, suspects not everything they do is on the level.
Sicario was directed by relative newcomer Denis Villeneuve who has only directed three major releases; Prisoners, Enemy and now Sicario. He has crafted a gritty and chilling piece of work for each of these films and Sicario is no exception. It is a bare bones look at the war on drugs. There is nothing flashy or glamorous about Sicario and Villeneuve has done an outstanding job of not glorifying the drug trade. He keeps it rather simple but Sicario had my stomach in knots through a large parts of the back and forth between the authorities and the cartel; simple or not. Villeneuve knows the story he wants to tell and he gets right to it. Credit Taylor Sheridan’s script for not dumbing the dialogue down for the viewers, either. Villeneuve and Sheridan have crafted a solid and entertaining film but do not flinch when it comes to show the consequences of the drug war and its effect on everybody; directly or indirectly involved.
Blunt is terrific as Mercer. This role was originally written for a man but was changed to a woman and Blunt does a great job or conveying fear, anger, rage and loneliness. Brolin is a hoot as Graver. He has some great lines and a swagger of a gunfighter, but he still takes this job seriously. Brolin’s acting makes it look easy in the best way. Which brings me to del Toro who really shines as Alejandro. He is a quiet man who speaks only when necessary and only to get the information he needs to move on to the next target. Del Toro seems to always be alert and knows that danger is not far off. There has been Oscar talk for del Toro’s performance and I can see that happening. But I also think Blunt should be considered, as well. They make an effective team on screen.
But Sicario is Villeneuve’s baby and this is a great film he has made and on a very limited budget. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is nothing short of gorgeous. Every shot is a piece of artwork the way one would look at a David Lean film. Johann Johannson’s emotionally strained score is particularly effective, as well. Sicario may travel some familiar ground with this material, but Viileneuve has made a doggedly rough and harsh film; unforgiving in its nature. There is a sequel planned which is supposed to focus on del Toro’s character, Alejandro. No word on whether it will be a sequel or a prequel, but regardless, one is coming. Villeneuve is all set to start shooting the follow up for my own personal favorite film of all time, Blade Runner. I was skeptical on how he could do Blade Runner any justice, but Villeneuve is winning me over.
Sicario-**** out of 5
Sicario- Rated R for graphic violence, language and grisly images
Sicario- Run Time is 121 minutes