Every once and a while a movie comes along with a style and performances that make you lose sight of the fact you are watching something created on screen through special effects, makeup, acting, etc.
Sicario is that way nearly from the beginning as FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is thrust into fighting against the Mexican drug cartel as well as her superiors who are supposedly in that same fight with the same purpose.
Macer, after a FBI task force mission at a drug house with hostages in Arizona does not go entirely as planned, is recruited to put her tactical skills toward combating the drug cartel as long as she technically volunteers to do it.
She does so after much coaxing from Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and is soon in the midst of what could be a corrupt plan to stop the top drug lord in Mexico by, ultimately, any means necessary.
Graver and another agent Alejandro, played by Benecio Del Toro, are the force behind that plan while Macer tries to do her job and protect people.
The story is often told from Macer’s point of view in a literary sense as her character develops on screen as well as through the use of style points and cinematography to show the viewer what she is experiencing.
Director Denis Villeneuve keeps the camera at bay from the characters’ actions and conversations in other scenes, including one of the first times that Macer confronts Graver after one of their early missions.
In between the action of shoot-outs at the Mexican border and in Juarez, the center of what is happening in Sicario is focused on morals, right vs. wrong and power and who has enough of those combined to be in full control.
Alejandro’s character certainly comes into play there as he borders between Macer’s biggest defender on the surface to being her biggest enemy. He is always there, but is it for protection of a fellow agent or other reasons?
Villeneuve and writer Taylor Sheridan keep just enough mystery there until the very end when Macer is faced with the truth and a decision that brings trust, morals and revenge all into play.
I get chills just thinking about the final scenes in Sicario and how effectively the individual character dynamics are mixed with the larger themes of corruption and crime in the film.
The three stars of the film, Blunt, Brolin and Del Toro, are fantastic and contribute to the sense that their physical and moral struggles are real rather than a cinematic story.
It’s a film I wish I could watch again this year, but I know there is no time for that. At least I have other titles from Villeneuve to watch, including Enemy and the upcoming Story of Your Life with my girl Amy Adams. Sicario will hook you on Villeneuve’s style of film making and creative choices as well as Emily Blunt’s versatility as an actress who can take on any role without flaw. (Check out Looper and The Adjustment Bureau if you haven’t seen those.)
To end this with a quote, which I am going to get back into doing, I turned to the final page of my signed copy of That Is All by John Hodgman.
He writes, “And thank you for your kind attention, all the way to the end. All I can say is THANK YOU. That is all.”