Expertly made, but it’s no good. Sicario has a gory but intriguing opening, awesome wide-angle shots of Mexico and U.S. border towns, and an Emily Blunt performance that is undeniably impressive. That opening deals with an FBI raid on an Arizona compound where a number of drug runner corpses are found, and the scene is capped off with a bomb explosion which results in casualties. Post incident Blunt’s FBI veteran Kate Macer is promoted to a new task force to take down the Mexican drug lords, which is run by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and accompanied by a mysterious advisor and hitman Alejandro (Benicio del Toro). Throughout their mission hunt, the big men leave Blunt in the dark about their objectives.
This is a film in which we wait for information to sparsely unfold and for a big reveal to payoff. I felt I was in the cusp of a gripping thriller, one that also was building off some torrents left by the Oscar-winning “Traffic” (2000) which so nimbly diagrammed the modern drug trafficking scene between Mexico and the U.S. “Sicario” on its own is smartly acted with laconic dialogue that is authentic yet unrevealing.
I’m sorry but there are also a questionable number of scenes that are correlative to plot twists, where I am wondering what are they doing there. Such as when Blunt is sent to a bar and set-up to be seduced with someone who turns out to be a villain. They come home drunk, begin sexual contact, and then — she notices something strange about him. That’s scary for her. But who is this man to us? Other than the vague explanation that is given to us? And isn’t the whole luring set-up of her as sexual bait absolutely contrived?
I threw my hands up in the air again during the tunnel climax. At first, it’s terrifically choreographed and filtered in night goggle vision (“Zero Dark Thirty” comes to mind), and the thumping music summons dread and demoralization — on Mexico soil, our U.S. agents will shoot first, ask questions later. The tunnel is a manufactured underground passageway for illegal immigrants and drug runners to sneak through. Then it is told that there are two divergent passageways, and our protagonists went down the “wrong” one, one that was supposed to remain a secret. I’m not sure what the differences are between one exit and the other.
I will say that the film is burrowed into the theme of commitment to ethics, in which Blunt has those commitments while her boss superiors don’t share the same perspective. But in her personal response to what has happened, are her feelings even realistic or practical?
Discord I felt towards this film aside, I want to see more films by the talented Denis Villeneuve whose “Incendies” (2010, French-Canadian) and “Prisoners” (2013) I was enthralled by, and whose other film “Enemy” (2014) made me feel the same as “Sicario.” Both esoteric and mind-boggling, not exactly worth its efforts, and yet I’m sure there will be a cult audience for it.
121 Minutes. Rated R.
MYSTERY-SUSPENSE / ADULT ORIENTATION / LATE NIGHT FOOD FOR THOUGHT