There’s a beautifully haunting moment in Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario that captures the film perfectly. Armed to the teeth, Emily Blunt’s outside agent follows Josh Brolin’s high-level leader and Benicio Del Toro’s unsettling ally down a tunnel and into the unknown. The tension is high and the sun is getting low as the line between light and dark cuts across the screen. It’s completely void of dialogue and yet says everything it needs to in this shadowy world of the war on drugs, gripping you like every other minute it’s a part of.
Feeling what could be his most accessible film to date, Villeneuve’s Sicario puts us in the door-thumping boots of FBI agent Kate (Blunt), who, after a recent bust on a supposed drug den is pulled in to work a case that will take her into Mexico to get her closer to the ones she’s after. It only takes an intense traffic jam to realise that it’s more than just border lines being crossed in an effort to draw out the enemy. But the deeper Kate goes with these lawless lawmakers, the harder it becomes to crawl out of, that’s if she makes it out at all.
Villeneuve seems to be right at home displaying an intense world of shady operations manned by shady characters, with the help of Oscar-nominated cinematographer, Roger Deakins. Described to Kate as a place where ‘nothing will make sense to your American ears’, the same could be said for the treatment on the eyes as well. Deakins displays the barren landscape of Mexico like Mars, with a brutal alien world opening up the further she goes. The one fault in all of this though, is the innocent eyes that are there to witness it.
Emily Blunt may have played some hardened heroines in the past with the likes of Looper and Edge Of Tomorrow, but Kate feels like the very antithesis of the Full Metal Bitch she gained so much credit for. Not necessarily one of her best performances, she’s still watchable and a worthy vessel to follow through this maze of drug warfare, but there’s only one team member you’re willing to invest your time in and he’s the one that can literally scare you in his sleep.
Blunt might be the source of the story, questioning Josh Brolin’s gum-chewing higher-up, but the film belongs to Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro, the second he enters the fold. His seasoned ‘consultant’ is more like a shark swimming through very murky waters, only coming up to the surface when he wants to either draw blood, or freeze it with a glance. Without a doubt, it’s the best performance Del Toro has delivered in years and no surprise why he’s already getting a proposed return in a sequel. Is it really necessary? Probably not. Like the lesson Kate can’t quite learn, there’s some things you don’t need to know and questions better left unanswered. Sicario delivers that message perfectly, however loud, clear and heart-poundingly intense it may be.