Saturday, October 10, 2015


SICARIO (Denis Villeneuve, 2015)

Having been noticed for doing excellent work on the kidnap rescue team, Phoenix FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is invited to join an interagency task force in SICARIO. She flies with Department of Defense advisor Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and a lawyer named Alejandro Benicio Del Toro) to El Paso on a mission that isn’t exactly clear to her. The longer she’s with them, the more Kate begins to question the legality of what they’re involved in.

As SICARIO explores what is done in the shadows in the war on drugs, viewers share Kate’s lack of clarity about the situation she’s participating in. With the camera moving forward director Denis Villeneuve takes Kate as the audience’s proxy deep into spaces where safety is far from assured. The scenarios become more fraught as the film progresses. The tension in the opening attack on a house where abductees are suspected to be held is exceeded in Kate’s voluntary baptism by fire as the team goes to Juarez and back. Villeneuve continues to turn up the heat, whether it’s within the walls of a military base, secret border-crossing tunnel, or kingpin’s home. These scenes come with an adrenaline charge and the distinct dread of the dangers in tight quarters.

Villeneuve and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan capture the thrill and horror experienced when going along for a ride to the dark side. SICARIO isn’t concerned so much with considering if the tactics used to make an impact on the cartels are above board. Whether as an unwitting participant or informed objector, Kate isn’t really in a position to be able to alter the actions she witnesses. Chances are if she’s not willing to play ball, those calling the shots will simply find someone else anyway. Speaking out may make Kate feel better, but doing so is likely just the quickest way to put herself at even greater risk.

Blunt is convincing at demonstrating the mental and physical toughness to perform in the field with no certainty of what awaits behind the doors she enters and walls surrounding her. Kate feels frustrated that her legitimate efforts aren’t making a dent in the bigger fight, yet she doesn’t approve of the secret activities attempting to gain a semblance of control in the situation. Matt’s heedless disregard for challenges to his authority make him a frightening yet effective character, and Brolin intimidates and amuses with the cocky assurance of someone who has license to do as he pleases. SICARIO doesn’t flinch as it stares at the violence that’s part and parcel of cartel activity here and abroad and supplies no easy solutions in its tangled, gripping story.

Grade: A-

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