Sicario is Mexican for Hitman, so we are informed in the opening of this taut thriller. The film wastes no time in creating an atmosphere of tension and darkness This is helped immeasurably by Johann Johannson punishing score, which embalms the film with a constant feeling of dread.
The story centres around a young FBI agent named Kate (Blunt) who leads a kidnap response team, who in the opening moments of this searing crime drama lays siege to a house in the suburbs. She’s capable and professional, first through the door, yet not immune to the horror of her work. She throws up along with her partner after discovering the dark-side of the drug war. Consequently she is recruited to join an Inter agency task-force, charged with, as the leader Matt (Brolin) says, “get the men who are really responsible for today”. “She’s a thumper been kicking doors in since day one, ” her supervisor informs the intrigued, impressed Matt. Kate wants to know what’s she’s getting herself into, but information is in short supply. On the periphery lurks the mysterious Alejandro (Del Toro), who initially takes the role of an advisor but quickly becomes a more active enforcer. “In three days nobody will be the same…..nothing will make sense but in the end you will understand” he advises. How true these words prove to be. “We are not even scratching the surface,” she confesses to her partner.
A short time later she is a passenger in a convoy of black armed vehicles racing through the streets of Juarez, escorting a mysterious prisoner, who may lead to the capture of a Mexican drug lord. “To find him will be like discovering a vaccine.” Alejandro offers up. A brilliant set-piece, expertly directed with the thumping score and Roger Deakin’s lighting maximises the threatening world of one of the top 10 murder capitals in the world. Decapitated heads and men strung up, upside down for all to see, evoke the violence ahead.
Of the performancer Blunt in the title role is fine, sans make-up she’s authentic in a Hollywood kind of way, however Del Toro envelopes the film with his brilliant turn, when he’s on screen it’s difficult to look at anyone else. Whether its folding his jacket into a suitcase or sticking his finger into the ear of a prisoner, he’s completely convincing. Josh Brolin underplays as the smiling leader, who will subvert rules to get control of the war on drugs.
On the heels of Traffic, Breaking Bad and more recently Netflix’s Narcos, Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) delivers a riveting drama. Perhaps not the masterpiece many are laying claim to, it remains an uncomfortable viewing experience from beginning to end. A simple soccer game can be interupted by the spray of gunfire.