Sicario is the film that Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic didn’t have the sack to be. No offense to Traffic, a solid but certainly dated drug expose, but Sicario doesn’t waste time showing the effects of narcotics abuse in Suburbia or a bunch of politicians led by Michael Douglas giving long-winded back-and-forths about ineffective drug legislation. Instead Sicario gets down to brass tactics, and examines the front line fight between different government agencies and the Cartel. In the States, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) follows rules and regulations in bringing down criminals but once she crosses the border into Juarez with a special government task force led by Graver (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benico Del Toro), the lines of right and wrong become blurred and two wrongs do make a right, goddamn it.
The performances are all extraordinary, especially from the three leads. Emily Blunt is truly a revelation here, playing such a complex and strong but at the same time relatable female character, that I suspect it was written for a male. Funny enough, Benico Del Toro delivers his best work since Traffic, sure to land him another Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, and Josh Brolin, one of the industry’s most underrated chameleons, is excellent in the least showy role of the three as the beyond cynical task force leader.
As good as the acting is, Sicario is a movie that tells it’s story through images. Beautiful, haunting imagery shot by one of the best cinematographers working in the industry, Roger Deakins. Combined with Joe Walker’s flawless editing and Denis Villeneuve’s masterful direction, Sicario creates some of the most gut-wrenching and stressful action sequences ever committed to film. It’s the cinematic equivalent of frantically trying to untangle yourself from a barbed wire fence.
Images of mutilated bodies hanging upside down in the middle of Juarez conjure up thoughts of Dante’s Inferno, and that pulse-pounding score consisting of deep-cutting demonic tones, played over the task force traveling into a tunnel used by Cartel traffickers, really makes it clear. This is a place where everyone is morally lost and the supposed “good guys” sink to the Cartel’s level. We’ve descended into hell. Grade: A