Sicario stars Emily Blunt as Kate, a tough young FBI Agent who is recruited for a joint government task force on drug enforcement. Immediately she smells something fishy, especially after she meets Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), a specialist in cartel politics who is supposedly working for the Department of Justice. Alejandro answers only to Kate’s new boss, an equally shady character named Matt (Josh Brolin).
Both Alejandro and Matt are suspiciously good with a weapon for a pair of Department of Justice lawyers and that’s not the only thing about this new assignment that is nagging at Kate. Among other things, Kate’s first day on the job finds her crossing the Texas-Mexico border to capture a high level drug asset. The fact that she’s flanked by an elite military force for this mission gives the strong impression that whoever has arranged this, is working outside the bounds of diplomacy and the rule of law.
As the story evolves, Kate is torn between the desire for results in the unending battle between the government and the fractured but still functioning cartels which have only grown more violent and territorial since the fall of the Medellin cartel which had kept an uneasy peace among the cartels while keeping the flow of drugs into America as high as it has ever been. The choice for Kate is simple, the idealistic and seemingly futile pursuit of results inside the bounds of the law or giving up a piece of her very soul for the chance to slow the flow of drugs into the country.
How much moral flexibility does Kate have? Can Kate kill unconvicted people if it means capturing or killing those who’ve earned it? These questions form the drama and suspense of Sicario and director Denis Villenueve gives these questions weight and patiently unfolds them as the movie goes on. Villenueve, one of the finest filmmakers working today, an Academy Award nominee for his work on Arrival, has a mastery of pacing and building toward powerful moments.
With the help of two time Academy Award nominee, Editor Joe Walker, Villenueve slowly allows tension to build via clever character moments and splashes of sudden violence. The editing is seamlessly brilliant and essential to how Sicario slow builds to a pair of remarkably tense closing scenes including a sweaty and intense dinner conversation with a drug kingpin and one final moment between main characters that is downright devastating.
I could go on and talk about the brilliant production design by Patrice Vermette, another two time Academy Award nominee or about the breathtaking cinematography of Roger Deakins, an Academy Award winner for his work on Villenueve’s Blade Runner in 2017 and the only member of the cast and crew of the first Sicario movie to be nominated for an Academy Award. Believe me when I tell you, every sequence of Sicario is impeccable.
Great performances, tremendous direction, beautifully spare cinematography and production design and a great story combine to make me very excited for the new movie Sicario Soldad. It should be fascinating to watch Alehandro and Matf do what they do without Kate around to force them to weigh their consciences. Just how low will these rogue elements of our spy underground go to stanch the drug pipeline between the U.S and Mexico.