Sicario – Review
Around the late 1970s or early 1980's I believe I was either in my late teens or maybe early twenties when I first heard the expression by some politician who coined the phrase “the war on drugs”. Seemed like at the time a forceful enough expression that the U.S. federal government would both spend money and increase manpower as a commitment to itself for an all-out effort of defeating the ever increasing flow of illegal drugs into the country, as well as arrest and prosecute individual consumption. In essence it was a catchy enough expression to rally the nation, families and concerned citizens by connoting there was a new enhanced federal effort to stopping any and all illegal narcotics from coming across our borders dead cold in its tracks.
News flash “war on drugs” update, the drugs have won the war – it’s over. Fact is Americans have made numerous 5th grade dropouts into billionaires from the illicit drug trade mostly in the southern region of our hemisphere. And so now the federal commitment seems less a war on the flow and usage and more of a “war on drug management”. Essentially speaking, to manage it in a way so as a nation we are not hit with a tsunami of uncheck drugs, violence and carnage, as well as not having users and addicts blatantly and common place getting high on their way to work or to their kids day care. And it’s this “management” theme that the movie “Sicario” picks up on starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro as three law enforcement agents.
Plot wise I dare not say too much, but the film does pick up with a bang (literally) on the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, as an idealistic FBI agent named Katy (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by an elite government task force official named Matt (Josh Brolin) to aid in the escalating flow of drugs. Coming along to round out the team is a mysterious, laconic talking and season drug consultant named Alejandro with a questionable past (Benicio Del Toro). The team sets out on a clandestine effort, not so much for making arrest, nor to confiscate drugs and or money, but rather for people who “manage” the money and drugs.
PROS: Bottom line, “Sicario” is one of the best movies for 2015. With Director Denis Villeneuve at the helm, who previous works include one of my all-time favorites films in “Incendies” and more recently the solid film “Prisoners”, he has manage to do what I dare say many directors have tried to do, but failed many times – make a Michael Mann movie about crime.
Perfectly crafted with slick camera angles, foreboding attitudes, ominous moods and almost flawless cinematography and lighting, Director Villeneuve wraps a rather tight script with these esthetic qualities around his three principle lead actors to bring to life a rare tingling sensation of a plot with real authenticity and threatening situations, all the while operating in the bleakest terrain in every frame for its two hours running time. Trust me folks, with this level of dark sinister menace all around them, neither you nor I would ever want their jobs no matter what the amount of money.
But for me the best part of “Sicario” is twofold. One it literally eviscerates any and all sanitized preconceived notions or pedestrian ideas you may have from watching a story on the nightly news of what it is really like – what is really going on at the southern border when it comes to the issue of drug trafficking - law enforcement. With scenes of people walking to work and doing their food shopping while just above them are four bodies riddled with bullets and decapitated heads hanging from a bridge over pass, you understand early on this film is not going to be holding your hand to tell you a bed time story about some “baa baa black sheep”.
The second best part of “Sicario” is simply you never know what will happen next or what are the characters real motives are or how the movie will end or who will even survive. Combine that with some of the best shot scenes I have seen in a long, long time, including one of agents in massive force rolling on back of trucks and SUVs through Juarez Mexico armed to the teeth. Another scene involving agents approaching suspects in the desert at night with infrared and heat detecting goggles. A third scene involving a tightly confined shoot-out. And finally Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro in a night time ride along with someone (so to speak).
CONS: Can’t you tell already – zero cons.
CONLUSION: “Sicario” is a taut extremely dark movie where constitutional or mirandized read rights don’t apply at all. Death, drugs, money and guns are the only reason to exist here with a sleek attitude and non-stop intensity. It’s a world where double digit body counts, fire arm tracers bullets light up the night sky, severed heads lay on the day time streets, eyes in the sky drones and AR-15s in your face are just common place. And with this background the viewing audience is left simply mesmerized in this thriller of very few spoken words where someone simply staring at you can be so cold blooded unnerving it can give you the viewing chills.
All of the actors were especially well cast in this effort, with a special note to Benicio Del Toro. In case you were wondering, his name means in Spanish the “benevolent bull”. In “Sicario” he is far from “kindly or caring” as Benicio would mean. Fact is Benicio the actor gives a stellar performance as both a man of mystery as well as having the feeling of a lurking ghost like figure whose presence was as creepy as one could imagine a character could ever be while holding a gun. The fact is he is so freaking good here at being both being “darkly” cool and someone not to be confronted, I would hope the Oscar Nominating Academy remembers his performance for a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In the beginning of the film, a description roles across the screen about the history of the word “Sicario”. It said it was a word that use to refer to Hebrew Zealots with the name meaning then of “dagger men" who fought to expel the Romans in Judea. Now the name is used in Mexico to refer to a hitman.
This is a must see movie and as far as the meaning of “Sicario” for me, well it translates into “a movie that was chillingly and thrillingly very good”.