The United States is and has been a long protracted war against the blight of drugs for years. One of our main opponents in this war are the drug cartels that seem to own parts of our country. These facts are brought home and slung into your face like a two by four by director Denis Villeneuve's latest film, Sicario.
The film opens with what is supposed to be a hostage rescue by the FBI, led by agent Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt), and her crack team of infiltration and rescue agents. The scene quickly goes from a rescue mission, to one of recovery after dead bodies, partially mummified, with plastic bags over their heads, are discovered in the walls of the house where the rescue attempt is taking place.
Soon after, Agent Mercer is asked to be on a task force assigned to go after those responsible for the bodies by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). Graver who is loosely described as a "DOD agent," but could be CIA. THe CIA is an agency that cannot operate on U.S. soil save for oversight from a domestic agency, such as the FBI.
Although she initially believes she is part of the task force for her tactical expertise, Agent Mercer slowly realizes she may be the 'oversight' Graver and company need.
Quickly brought to an airbase in El Paso, and assigned to be part of a pickup group for a leading cartel member to extradite from Mexico, Mercer begins to realize she may be in over her head. Added to the mix is a mysterious lawyer/special ops/mourning family man, Alejandro (Benicio del Toro). Alejandro is described by our covert ops agent, Matt Graver, as his 'bird dog.' In the course of the movie we are shockingly awakened to how such an old school term of camaraderie doesn't begin to describe the depth of Alejandro's mission with Graver's team.
There are no real heroes in this movie except, FBI Agent Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya), an Army combat vet and attorney, who is initially blocked by Graver due to his legal background and conscience. But, Agent Wayne is quickly swept into a tertiary position by the increasing conflict between Graver and Mercer during high stake and illegal operations combating the Sonora drug cartel in Texas and in Juarez, Mexico.
Graver, and the rest of his team are shown to be - at times - amoral, sneaky, and if needed, cruel to get the job done. Mercer, although constantly given a way out of the frying pan, continues to jump time and time back into the fire even if it's revealed to her, more than once, what she is involved with.
The cinematography, although at times is overly jumpy, gives immense depth and adds to the overall despair that runs through the veins of this body of work. From a hard working Mexican Federal cop and father to our mystery man Alejandro, trying to find a moral compass in this film is almost impossible. Realistic, grim, and surprisingly apolitical, this movie has brilliant writing,acting and film craft, and is directed superbly. However, the characters almost beyond redemption in what is shown. Maybe we can never win the war on drugs, just slow it down.