Sicario immediately sets the tone for the rest film and tells you that this is not the Hollywoodized version of the war against drugs. It’s about a world of secrets, constant danger, and controlled chaos.
Right off the bat, the story kicks off with a raid – plastic-wrapped dead bodies are discovered and an improvised explosive device blows two officers into bloody chunks.
Along the way, you get well-executed gripping action scenes with sharp cinematography, deft camerawork, and editing. The orchestral score, reminiscent of Se7en and Silence of the Lambs, is filled with thumping dread that expertly enhances the tension.
The violence is not glorified nor sensationalized as the action has consequences. The script knows when to be blunt and when to hold back, shoving the extreme results of violence in your face or letting your imagination do its thing by keeping it off the frame.
It is also smart enough to know that while these are great in enforcing a sense of danger in every turn, you can’t wear out the audience as the plot winds down at the right moments to focus on Kate. The movie has little time to flesh out its characters, but the stellar cast managed to imbue them with personalities.
Emily Blunt is able to show steely resolve, bewilderment, and vulnerability. You know that she is dedicated to her job, but you also get a sense that she may be at the end of her rope. Josh Brolin is reliable as the cynical smart ass whose character Matt expertly keeps Kate in the dark. Benicio Del Toro turns in a memorable performance as the mysterious Alejandro who is suspicious yet rouses curiosity. At times he’s like a father figure to Kate, but you still know full well that that doesn’t keep her safe from anyone.
While all of these elements make Sicario undeniably riveting, it’s a clinical drama. Kate is used as a plot device. Along with the audience, she becomes a passenger in a ship drifting on cold gray waters. The destination is unclear, the rest of the passengers look dubious, the deep cast refracted images of abandoned corpses, and all that Kate can hope is to survive.
On the other hand, this is what Sicario exactly intends to do. The drama reflects a grim yet timely picture of the war on drugs. There are no easy answers or swift resolutions. It’s a chaotic world where the line between what is right and wrong doesn’t exist at all.
The cartel is an organization that supplies a multi-million dollar industry. As long as there is demand there will always be supply. What the authorities can only really do is curb the violence and clean up the mess.
Sicario is a haunting and sad picture, but true nonetheless.
Sicario is a grim commentary and smart thriller about the war on drugs, thanks to a taut screenplay, affecting performances, and deft cinematography.