The world loved Sicario. I did not. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot to enjoy in this movie. That’s the perplexing part. There’s a lot to dig into. Nevertheless, I was left wanting more.
Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is an FBI agent and she’s on a mission to rescue a house full of kidnapping victims. Macer lives in Arizona, a state replete with narco activity. She knows the Mexican drug trade has something to do with the people she aims to save, but she can’t prove anything.
Macer’s a tough gal. She even busts through the side of a house (in a tank) to rescue her kidnapping victims. Unfortunately, she comes up short. Inside, she finds a heavily guarded, but mostly empty house. Immediately she knows something isn’t right. Kate looks around and soon makes a gruesome discovery. This house is full of dead bodies, hidden in plain sight. There’s no insulation here, just husks of people, wrapped up in plastic and callously stashed behind the drywall. Somebody wanted these people forgotten, but Kate isn’t about to let that happen.
After word of Kate’s discovery spreads, the CIA approaches her with an intriguing proposition. Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) says he’s impressed with Kate’s work and wants her to be part of his team. He aims to go after the big dogs, the "jefes," the ones in charge. Graver wants to take down the people who ordered those walls filled with bodies. He wants to get to the root of the problem, and he’s going to need Kate’s help to do that.
She’s hesitant, but eventually Kate accepts and from that moment on, she’s lost in a violent cloud of half-truths, bullet casings, blood loss and revenge. It’s a messy, eye-opening ride-along for Macer who refuses to let her guard down, even for the good guys. Sicario is the story of what happens when impunity and corruption become tradition.
Emily Blunt brings us an FBI agent that’s somewhat idealistic, maybe even a tad naïve. She’s tough, but she’s a by-the-books kind of gal. She wants to do things the right way, and she’ll be damned if anyone tries to get one over on her. Blunt is phenomenal as Macer. Every emotion flickers vibrantly in her most emotive eyes. Blunt's nuanced performance is powerful and gives a soul to a movie that would otherwise be too violent to matter.
Josh Brolin as Matt Graver is that smarmy guy at work who knows more than he’ll ever admit and doesn’t give a damn if you like it or not. Brolin brings us a CIA agent that’s seen horrible things and dabbles in dreadful tactics, all in the name of justice & order. He’s hard not to like. He gives depth to a character that would be all too one-dimensional if it weren’t for his performance. Brolin is the wake up call we all need.
Benicio del Toro is understated as a former prosecutor who is now a star in Matt Graver’s crew. Del Toro brings us a mysterious, restrained and deeply affected lawyer in Alejandro. It’s hard to know what to make of him from the moment he comes on screen. The dubious nature of his character is beguiling in every sense of the word. Del Toro’s performance lends a sobering reality to this movie that cuts to the bone, but is necessary to drive home the reality of the Mexican drug trafficking situation here in the U.S. and across the border. He’s perfection.
The performances are top notch. The storytelling is on point. The only problem I have with this movie is the writing. The script is a little too straightforward for my liking. I suppose this movie brought up the same feelings of anger and resentment that I felt after watching Crash.
Remember that movie? The world went nuts for director Paul Haggis' story of racial injustice and prejudice, when it came out in 2004. It even won a bunch of awards for its groundbreaking storytelling. Never once did I understand any of it. Crash just fed me a bunch of stuff I already knew. None of this was new, yet the world reacted as if it were. It was irritating at best. I got hints of that same frustration when I realized I was watching the final scene of Sicario.
The story here is excellent, but the characters weren’t developed to the degree that I would have liked. Sicario feels more like a superficial storytelling of the Mexican drug trade and how the U.S. deals with some of the most dangerous criminals in our midst. While Blunt’s performance was pristine, her character could have been more than just the naïve voice of reason. Nay, it should have been more. The same goes for Alejandro, Benicio Del Toro’s character. Sure, the man’s supposed to be mysterious, but that mystery needn’t be perfunctory.
Finally, while Denis Villeneuve (director) does make an attempt to humanize those affected by the violence within Mexico, he's ultimately more effective at vilifying these folks as outsiders instead. With that aspect of Sicario, I was sorely disappointed. Villeneuve serves up a vicious and brutal story that is worth watching, but Taylor Sheridan's (writer) script could have used a strategic splash of character development. With that said, the last scene of this movie is one of the most powerful I’ve seen all year. Give it a go. I wanted to love this movie, but I didn't. I liked it. It was good, how "good" will be up to you to decide.
Sicario - C+
C+ = If you’re looking for a good time, watch this. However, please note that I’m not suggesting you go out of your way to do so. Don’t worry; chances are you won’t be mad I encouraged you to sit through this one.