SICARIO: a dirty war against the narcos

Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt in SICARIO
Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt in SICARIO

In the dark crime thriller Sicario, Emily Blunt plays a fierce and skilled FBI SWAT team leader. She’s battling Mexican narcos in Phoenix when her superiors give her the chance to “volunteer” for a mysterious anti-narco detachment with a cheerfully amoral leader (Josh Brolin). It’s unclear precisely from where, in or out of the US government, this group operates, and it includes an even more shadowy figure (Benicio Del Toro).  She’s seen a lot of bad things, but, almost immediately, she is shocked at what her new team is doing.

Sicario’s premise is that the only way to make a difference in the Drug War is to shake up drug suppliers by decapitating the major drug gangs – by any means necessary.   The good guys are fighting a Dirty War themselves.  Del Toro plays one of the most hardass movie assassins in recent cinema.

Sicario is directed by Denis Villeneuve, who also directed Incendies (my #1 movie of 2011), Enemy and Prisoners.  He has a gift for the plot-driven thriller.  While taut;y paced, the overall affect of Sicario is more brooding than frenetic, consumed by the inevitability of violence and death.

Sicario looks and sounds better than it is, having been photographed by Roger Deakins (12 Oscar nominations).  The desert borderland looks ominous as well as desolate.  And there’s a night vision scene that really pops.  The music by Jóhann Jóhannsson is unusually effective in enhancing the intense, dark and volatile mood.

I haven’t been thinking about Sicario afterwards, so it isn’t a great movie, but it’s definitively a well-made and effective crime drama.

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