In Mexico, ‘sicario’ means hitman.’ reads the line as the black screen fades to a scene of a black ops task force moving down a dusty Arizona slope to raid a small house. This task force turns out to be an FBI kidnap response team led by Kate Macy (Emily Blunt). Discovering dozens of mutilated bodies, bagged up and stowed inside the walls of the house, Kate stumbles into the cross-border drug war and the brutality of the Mexican cartels. Her curiosity pushes her to take up a role with a drug enforcement team to cross the border from El Paso into the world’s murder capital, Ciudad Juarez.
The drug wars between the American and Mexican authorities and the cartels is a subject at risk of becoming a modern film cliche. However, Sicario is not all it seems. More than a crime film, it is a dark, edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller. Some almost unbearably tense moments are heightened by Johann Johannsson’s chilling soundtrack. The Oscar-nominated score more than serves it’s purpose in this film.
Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins takes the reigns in this one and provides some awe-inspiring aerial landscapes of the settlements of the American South-West and the notorious Juarez surrounded by the desert. Also some ingenious close-ups which captured every fibre of the emotion of main character Kate Macy played very capably by the brilliant Emily Blunt. The switch of POV from Kate to Alejandro seemed natural despite seeming to go against all the unwritten rules of cinematography. Minimal editing and extended still shots keep the tension alive and the pace of the camera angles distinguish Sicario as more of a thriller than an action flick.
Benicio Del Toro also brought his very best to Sicario with his chillingly convincing betrayal of a former-Medellin cartel assassin who is brought along to aid the DEA in capturing or killing the boss of a Mexican cartel, Manuel Diaz. You’re never really sure whether to root for Alejandro or not through his sinister moments, playing ‘bad cop’ with detainees and talking about missing his daughter who was killed on orders from Diaz. Of course it is the murder of his daughter that motivates Alejandro to get his vengeance.
Josh Brolin plays the slippery, charismatic- if slightly arrogant- Hank Shrader type DEA man. A menacingly casual character, wearing flip flops and wandering around shirtless during the preparation for a major operation.
An exhilarating, more-than-meets-the-eye crime thriller with excellent mood and atmosphere control by the cinematography and music producers. And a mesmerising display from the central trio of Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin that sits firmly on the right side of reality.