Continuing my series of ‘Crime movies in which Benicio Del Toro kills a lot of people whilst being a bad ass‘, I’ve decided to review one of my favourite movies from recent years: Sicario.
Sicario is a 2015 crime thriller directed by Denise Villeneuve and written by Taylor Sheridan. It’s about FBI Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) who is recruited into an anti-drug task force which is led by secret agent Matt Greaver (Josh Brolin) and his mysterious Mexican partner Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro). Along the way Kate realizes she’s just entered a dark world filled with violence.
The big stand out in Sicario for me is the characters. Unlike a lot of protagonists in crime/military thrillers Kate Macer is far from the most deadly agent walking the planet. She’s often scared and almost dies on numerous occasions. She also has her doubts about the missions she is sent on and her role on the team. Matt Greaver comes across as rather easy going and relaxed person, despite the fact he’s leading a secretive group. Then there’s Alejandro, who proves to be a tortured soul that is near unstoppable and at times brutal when tasked with finding who he wants.
Even some of the side characters are very compelling. Kate’s partner in the FBI Reggie Wayne (David Kaluuya) often shows concern over what is occurring in the movie. DEA Agent and fellow task force member Steve Forsing (Jeffery Donovan) shows a casual demeanor, even when talking about the tortured bodies of cartel victims. Finally there’s Mexican police officer Silvio (Maximiliano Hernandez), who shows us life on the other side of the border.
Tension is very well crafted throughout the movie. Scenes are often constructed to make the viewer nervous and uncomfortable. My favourite of these is the border scene where the task force is ambushed. You know something bad is about to happen. The excellent score by Jóhann Jóhannsson builds as operatives plan out their next moves.
This scene also demonstrates the ways Denis uses visuals to add details. From how Kate is only armed with a pistol, demonstrating how unprepared she is for the situation, to how Alejandro’s MP5 has a silencer attached, hinting that he might be a bit more secretive, especially considering he’s not trying to be stealthy. Finally, there’s the shot of Matt Greaver sitting in the car chewing on some gum, as if nothing happened.
Director of Photography Roger Deakins does an incredible job with lighting. Night truly looks like night, without compromising the viewer’s ability to see what’s going on. This is one slick looking movie.
The only real negative I can level at Sicario is the story. It’s admittedly very basic, but I feel that is fine (although I admit this is the type of premise that does truly appeal to me). It could have had some of the politics that goes into the war on drugs. The pros and cons of various approaches, from harm prevention to SWAT teams kicking in doors and ventilating drug dealers. I can understand politics can be divisive, which is problematic for those trying to build an audience but at the same time it could have added even more to Sicario’s lacking story.
Still, if you want to watch one of the most well executed crime thrillers in recent years, you should track down Sicario. It’s dark, cruel and realistic look into the war on drugs and cartel violence.