It is very tempting to start this review by simply telling you to get up and go to the cinema, buy tickets for Sicario and let it punch you repeatedly for 2 hours.
Does that trailer persuade you? It did the work for Mrs L and me. We were not disappointed.
Sicario is a brutal, hard-hitting piece of cinema. It is a high tension, character driven thriller that doesn’t shy away from the horror of the subject matter – the perception and reality of America’s war on drugs. This is a territory that has been mined before, most recently in the excellent US adaptation of The Bridge, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that Sicario is just another drug movie.
Every film has that moment – that scene, exposition or line of dialogue – that sits in that sweet spot when we walk out of the darkness of the cinema. For Sicario the enormity of the positioning of the sides in the war on drugs is graphically laid out in the Juarez convey scene – a snake of SUVs surgically entering and leaving Mexico. The counterpoint of controlled American strategy with the brutality of the drug cartels sets the scene for the whole film. It is a sequence that reminds you of the better pieces of Michael Mann’s work in Heat, whilst telling you – the audience – exactly where you fit into the BIG picture…
To suggest that we are following a hero role through the narrative would be a mis-nomer. Emily Blunt’s FBI agent, Kate Macer, plays the part of American idealism, whilst Josh Brolin’s gung-ho “shake it up” bravado is very much Kilgore on the beach. Benicio Del Toro plays what may well be his finest role so far. He is understated and as with all great parts, the character comes through in the silences between the words. Of all the parties involved in the failing battle, he is the one who provides the film’s constant. Should we be empathetic with any of them?
Sicario is a violent and graphic film, from the discovery of the bodies in Phoenix to the decapitated hanging bodies on the side of the road in Juarez and yet the most brutal moments are intimated. It is a clever move by director, Denis Villeneuve, because Sicario is a character led piece – it just so happens that those characters are analogues for the dreams and realities of America’s drug war.
We left the cinema wondering just how accepting the American audience will be to its core message. Sicario is not a patriotic take on its subject. It is a brutal and visceral evaluation of a problem that gets spun in the media. Like Blunt at the end of the Juarez scene on the bridge, the audience is left in no doubt that, “This won’t make the papers in El Paso.”
Sicario means Hitman. Remember that when you watch the film.
Should you go to see Sicario? Without a doubt, yes. Will you enjoy it? It will make you talk. It could be a future classic – quite easily.
John usually writes a sarcastic bit here but he is currently a little too bruised and battered.