Idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by a secretive government task force led by CIA Agent Matt (Josh Brolin) and including freelance 'advisor' Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.
Review by Louise Keller:
The pitch of Sicario's intensity is like a scream, underlined by the film's ominous score as it deliberates its moral quandary. Filled with suspense, this thriller about a borderland drug war takes us headlong into a world where the rules have been re-written. Like his earlier films Incendies (2010) and Prisoners (2013), it's an immersive experience and a tough film from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, that never lets us off the hook emotionally. The fact that the action plays out through the eyes of its morally conservative protagonist (played to great effect by Emily Blunt in a riveting, contained performance) exacerbates our emotional response. Tough, disturbing and satisfying in equal measures, this is a heavyweight film that poses difficult questions.
The action begins in Arizona, where FBI agent and kidnap-response-team leader Kate Macer (Blunt) makes the gruesome discovery of a Mexican cartel 'house of death' during a raid. When she agrees to volunteer for a new CIA task force, little does she realise her by-the-book code of ethics will be compromised.
Watch and learn, Josh Brolin's Defence Department representative Matt tells her, while Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), the mysterious Colombian former prosecutor and sicario (hitman) of the title, tells her 'You will doubt everything until the end and then you will understand'. The stakes escalate as things become personal. Like Kate, our horror increases gradually as we understand what is the purpose of the mission and even more shocking, what is Kate's purpose.
Villeneuve's treatment of violence is especially effective, much of it being implied, as it takes place off-screen. Although we may not exactly see what happens, we are left with no doubt as to what has occurred.
The contrast of the characters and their relationships play a great part in the overall tension. There is discomfort in the fact that Matt is a laid-back, gum-chewing kind of guy whose smirk is ever present -as he turns a blind eye to violence and torture. There is nothing likeable about Matt but we understand him. Alejandro is an enigma and Del Toro has created a character whose intensity almost implodes on screen. The look in his eyes says plenty. The dynamic between Del Toro and Blunt is especially strong and their final confrontation is one you will not forget.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The team of American writer/actor Taylor Sheridan, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, English cinematographer Roger Deakins and Icelandic composer J—han J—hansson have made a combustion of a movie, pushing the sub genre of Mexican drug wars to thrilling new limits. And with plenty of personal elements, not least a feisty and idealistic young female FBI agent, Kate, played with determined seriousness by Emily Blunt. But the battle plan to find one of the biggest big daddies of the Mexican drug trade is spearheaded by the edgy and dangerous lone wolf, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), who has a significant personal interest in reaching the target.
De Toro underplays the character beautifully, building him from the inside as a taciturn, ruthless hunter (the sicario or hitman of the title), deeply wounded by the war of drugs. His powerhouse performance is matched by way of contrast by Josh Brolin as the rather cool, gum chewing CIA agent who manipulates the raid - and Kate.
The screenplay is taut and terrific, and the editing matches the spirit of the script, while Villeneuve (especially noted for his stunning work on Prisoners and Incindies ) combines the action drama with the character arcs with satisfying gusto. The balance is just right, and we invest in all the characters as the attack plan unfolds. It's told clearly but with flair, and J—hansson's distinctive, ominous score is a major force in the film. (No slouch he, Oscar nominated for his score to The Theory of Everything.)
The film looks terrific, thanks to Roger Deakins' excellent work as cinematographer, whose work on movies from the Shawshank Redemption to Skyfall make him something of a master; he has 12 Oscar nominations, among many other accolades. Great work.
Email this article
CAST: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Donovan, Victor Garber, Raoul Trujillo, Maximiliano Hernandez
PRODUCER: Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Edward McDonnell, Molly Smith
DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve
SCRIPT: Taylor Sheridan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roger Deakins
EDITOR: Joe Walker
MUSIC: J—han J—hansson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patrice Vermette
RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 24, 2015