Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Running Time: 121 mins
Sicario is an American film about a young, honest FBI agent who is recruited by the CIA to take part in an operation against the worsening drug war on the Mexican-American border.
This is another impressive film from the director of Prisoners and Enemy, Denis Villeneuve. Much like those two films, Sicario is extremely gritty, violent and dark, full of hopeless despair and horrifying crime, but it works brilliantly in making an intriguing story throughout, and although it may not be the most exhilarating thriller you’ll see this year, it remains an intelligent and very solid movie overall.
The story follows an FBI agent, acclaimed for her work in coping with cartel activity in Arizona, who is called up to take part in a much larger operation across the border in Mexico. The main reason that this film is so interesting, however, is that it doesn’t look at the operation as a simple affair, but instead presents it in a very critical light.
The CIA’s activities in Mexico are notorious, but this film doesn’t assume it’s all good and about justice, and very cleverly blurs the line between what’s right and what’s wrong in a desperate situation such as this. As a result, you always have the opportunity throughout this film to think hard about the ethical and political consequences of what’s being depicted, and it makes it a much more interesting watch than you would initially expect.
That’s another huge strength of this film, that it takes the story in so many different directions that you don’t see coming. Shying away from a generic crime thriller, Sicario is hugely unpredictable, and although it doesn’t necessarily succeed in making a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat experience, there are always surprises to come (very similar like the political thriller Zero Dark Thirty).
One of the other most impressive parts of the story is the portrayal of Benicio Del Toro’s character. Yes, Emily Blunt is technically the protagonist, but her character isn’t the most dramatic or exciting to follow, it’s actually Del Toro that will really hook you on this film, as he plays a man full of mystery.
You really don’t know where this guy’s alliances lie, and as you’re fed small pieces of information about him having seen some really bad stuff in the past, he just becomes absolutely fascinating, pulling you further into the drama of the story even more.
Finally, the direction by Denis Villeneuve is excellent. Again, he makes the film appear completely without hope, increasing the stakes significantly and making for more intrigue, whilst it’s also a simply beautifully-shot movie to watch, with epic wide shots of the Mexican landscape, as well as enticingly dark images of some of the more gritty and depressing areas.
Overall, then, I’ll give Sicario a 7.7, because although it’s not a hugely exciting thriller, it succeeds in making an interesting and intelligent story throughout, helped by brilliant directing and impressive performances and characterisation.