Those who've seen Sicario will know that it's an excruciatingly tense slow-burner which grabs you from the opening frame and refuses to let go until, like its protagonist Kate (Emily Blunt), you feel as though you've just had the breath strangled out of you.
Sicario begins with a fairly routine hostage raid on an Arizona home, which turns out to be very much not routine when a massive number of corpses are discovered inside the walls. When an explosive goes off, two SWAT agents are killed right in front of Kate Macer's eyes.
Within hours she's been recruited to join a task force headed up by Graves (Josh Brolin), a CIA agent with mysterious motives and an even more mysterious habit of wearing flip-flops in the office.
Although the movie's first third is gripping, it doesn't really come alive until Kate begins to question the presence of Graver's Colombian associate, Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), on the task force. Kate can't figure out to which agency Alejandro belongs, or what he stands to gain from the operation to take down a Mexican drug cartel headed up by Manuel Diaz.
What follows is a kind of nightmarish journey into a world punctuated by drug trafficking and police corruption at every turn, but the real crux of the story is the relationship between Kate, who would quite like to know she's not breaking a ton of laws in two countries, and Alejandro, who almost certainly is.
Emily Blunt is doing brilliant work here as Kate, tapping into a strength and vulnerability which never threatens to veer into action female stereotypes, but it's del Toro's Alejandro who drives the film forward, his every action tightening the knot in your stomach. In one climactic scene, Alejandro aims his gun at a dinner table. We know exactly what's coming, yet somehow it's still a vicious surprise when it does.
There is nobody nominated for Best Supporting Actor this year with a performance better than del Toro's under his belt. Not Tom Hardy, not Christian Bale, and most definitely not Mark Ruffalo, who feels like a stray inclusion in this category, nominated largely on the strength of his Oscar-bait film, as opposed to the performance itself.
Best Actress is a more crowded playing field, but the idea that Jennifer Lawrence did better work in Joy than Blunt here is fairly ridiculous. Most of the spotlight #oscarssowhite has shone on Academy racism has focused on the exclusion of black actors, but let's not forget that Sicario is a film shot largely on location in South America, and del Toro is not white. Perhaps it felt too exotic for the tastes of voters who get a patriotic kick out of watching an American woman invent a vacuum cleaner.
It's not necessarily an issue of race. Sometimes good performances just get overlooked. But when a movie like Sicario gets the cold shoulder, and a performance like del Toro's goes unrecognised, something's wrong with the process. Sicario is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and iTunes.