Sicario is not a subtle film. From the opening, it’s brutal and shocking—throwing you into a genuine house of horror as Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and her fellow FBI agents raid a house, looking for some people who were kidnapped, only to find 92 corpses in the walls and a bomb under the shed. From here, it does not slow down as Kate allows herself to be recruited by the incredibly sleazy Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) who, when not discussing gonorrhoea, is either attempting to destabilise the numerous powerful Mexican cartels or deflecting Kate’s questions.
This leads her on a confusing and somewhat terrifying excursion into hostile Mexican territory, with the mysterious and unflappable Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro), and her questions constantly fall on deaf ears, landing her in an increasingly confusing and scary situation. This leads us down two hours of brutal violence that has everything from dismembered corpses to attempted chokings. As I said earlier, Sicario is not a subtle film…
The film itself is not without it’s flaws. If you’re looking for a fresh and interesting take about the war on drugs, then this is not the film for you. Sicario accurately depicts the violence and brutality of the cartels, but does not really offer much beyond that. The main plot line is quite simple, and really just descends into a pretty generic action film. On top of that, the subplot is quite underdeveloped—and I never really cared about what happened to the struggling Mexican policeman.
The dialogue at times can also be just plain bad. Expected responses to questions can result in a simplified view of characters and their motives—Kate Macer joins the task force to “find those responsible” for the horrors she has witnessed. This detracts from Emily Blunt’s performance. You can understand her horror, but the concept of revenge is much less understandable, particularly when considering the brutal reality of her job—emphasised from the opening of the film.
These problems are eventually overcome and this film is enjoyable. The setting is stunning and the cinematography is beautiful—it’s a real spectacle, and watching it on the big screen was a pleasure. The way that it is made really puts you in the middle of the action, and sometimes it feels as if you’re playing a video game rather than watching a film—and I mean that in a complementary way; you feel like you are in that tunnel with them, you feel like you’re wearing night vision goggles—it’s really quite something.
Also, despite occasionally bad dialogue and mediocre characterisation, it’s incredibly tense and I was constantly on edge. Finally, the acting throughout is very good, Benicio del Toro can be simultaneously intimidating and reassuring; Josh Brolin is sleaze personified with a rough edge, and Emily Blunt nicely captures confused determination.
Sicario is not a perfect film by any measure, but it is incredibly enjoyable and worth seeing. It’s well made and certainly action packed which makes for a fun two hours. Just don’t expect to see something that is anything more than a pretty good action film.