Released: September 18, 2015
Runtime: 121 minutes
Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049)
Written by Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water, 12 Strong)
Cinematography by Roger Deakins (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?)
Music by Jóhann Jóhannsson (Prisoners, Arrival)
Produced by Basil Iwanyk (The Town, John Wick: Chapter 2), Edward L. McDonnell (Kid, Insomnia), Molly Smith (P.S. I Love You, La La Land), Thad Luckinbill (Rebel in the Rye, Only the Brave), Trent Luckinbill (Demolition, 12 Strong)
Starring Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, The Five-Year Engagement), Benicio del Toro (Traffic, The Usual Suspects), Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men, American Gangster), Daniel Kaluuya (Kick-Ass 2, Get Out), Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street, Fury), Victor Garber (Titanic, Argo)
Are you excited about the upcoming release of Sicario 2: Soldado? Because I am. Yet another movie that slipped by my radar a couple of years ago, Sicario lived up to the hype surrounding it upon its release in 2015. It has a star-studded cast with the inclusion of Academy Award winner Benecio del Toro, Academy Award nominee Josh Brolin, and Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt. If you have any questions as to how del Toro, a mild-mannered actor can acquire such an award, watch The Usual Suspects, Traffic, and Sicario; then get back with me.
Sicario had been constantly popping up as a suggested film on Prime, so my wife and I finally decided to give it a go. After seeing the opening scene show a rescue attempt led by Kate Mercer (Blunt) go tragically awry, I promptly grabbed my brand new notebook and pen that I received as an early Valentine’s Day gift, and began taking notes for this review.
At the onset, Sicario had a grim vibe to it like there was a grand battle going on between good and evil, and someone was going to die. With the dramatic, building soundtrack and pacing of the film, Sicario reminded me a lot of Se7en, where every person and every plot point we come across is building to a finale that we’re just not sure that we can handle.
Image via Lionsgate
As far as the movie’s characters are concerned, I thought their development was a bit abstract at the beginning. We immediately see Kate Mercer get an opportunity to join Matt Graver’s (Brolin) DOJ, drug task force set for El Paso. Matt is seeking bright, young prospects from various Federal agencies that he thinks he can utilize. We don’t get much background to who either character is at this point, and it isn’t until later in the film that we learn anything of consequence about their past. Alejandro Gillick (del Toro) is no different. He is introduced early as well, and he is a fascinating mystery to both Kate and the viewers until the end of the film. I was okay with the lack of background on him, because I think that fit in with his withdrawn personality. One thing that Kate was sure of: Alejandro wasn’t just an advisor to the DOJ.
Even though the characters’ development took a while, Sicario’s story was simple, yet effective. Matt was putting together a DOJ, drug task force to ruffle some feathers in the drug cartels in Mexico. There was one person in particular that he and Alejandro were interested in: Manuel Díaz. If they could raise enough sand by cutting off money and drugs to Díaz, at least for a while, Díaz would have to return back to his bosses in Mexico. That was the goal for Matt and Alejandro. They wanted to cut the head of the snake off in Mexico. For Matt, he wants to see some semblance of order restored in Mexico with over 20% of the population using cocaine. For Alejandro, he wants to be the one to “restore” that order. Since their interests align, they decide to team up for this job, and Kate is brought along for the ride.
If you’ve seen Heat, then you’re familiar with what kind of action and gun fighting this movie entails. There are multiple shooting scenes out in the open, with civilians in harm’s way, and it’s brutally brilliant. One scene in particular happens when Matt’s task force and local law enforcement are transporting a prisoner, and an attempt to rescue the prisoner is made by some of his men near the Mexican border. It wasn’t a surprise attack, since the attempt was made on a multi-lane highway in stand still traffic. This was one of the more tense moments in the film since Alejandro had his rifle pointed just over Kate’s right shoulder out the back window of their vehicle, and multiple vehicles were in his line of sight. The shooting ended up being a slaughter in favor of the federal agents, and it was just that – a slaughter. This was a reality check for Kate since she had always been a “by the book” agent. For her entire career, she had had the long arm of the law planted firmly up her butt, and she wasn’t very comfortable with how Matt and Alejandro did business. Her method may have been lawful, but it wasn’t yielding the same results as the Wild West methods employed by the task force. Kate began to realize exactly what she had signed up for.
Image via MovieWeb
Even though I felt that Kate’s morality played a large role in Sicario, the story eventually became about Alejandro and his goal in finding good, old-fashioned revenge. It’s not until ninety minutes into the movie that we get his full story, but it’s worth the wait. At the end of the movie, I almost forgot about Kate, and became enthralled by what del Toro’s character would do next. The choices he makes at the end were morally questionable, but I think you’ll agree that they were justified.
In summary, I can tell you that this movie’s ending is worth all of the buildup. The acting, action, score, story, and visual effects were all spot on for a crime movie that really delved into the underbelly of the Mexican drug cartels. Some of the characters in the movie saw the boundaries “moved” multiple times and were forced to make tough, moral decisions. In my opinion, I highly recommend watching Sicario, and now I am ready to watch Sicario 2: Soldado!
I’m going to give Sicario a 93%.