Sicario = Mexican for Hitman
Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a tough, hard as nails FBI SWAT team member investigating a suspected drug cartel house in a suburban area in Chandler Arizona.
The start of the film features an armoured vehicle, which in itself is indicative of a slight break down in the rule of law and the ability of the police to protect not only civilians but themselves.
As Macer and her police partner “Reggie” (Kaluyya) uncover the full horror of their discovery, events then lead Macer to a different kind of job offer.
If Macer thought she was the tip of the spear in the fight against the drug cartels, she rapidly realises this is the wrong weapon to use against a brutal foe, who will stop at nothing in their pursuit of money and power.
After somewhat naively joining the CIA “team”, Macer realises that all previous rules of engagement are merely window dressing. Her new “people managers” Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benico Del Toro) interpret what is required to “win the war on drugs”, adopting a more fluid SOP compared to standard government policy.
As the team take off for Juarez, Mexico Graver responds to queries about the private jet being utilised “don’t you guys have one of these?”. Alejandro’s hands shake and he clearly has nightmares, neither of which point to a stable work supervisor.
Blunt is one of a handful of female actors who can really make this work and she does here in spades. Tough, experienced and worldly yet slowly realising the world she normally inhabits only represents 80%. The other 20% you never knew about, could and probably will kill you, if you decide to lift the curtain.
Del Toro can play these parts in his sleep and portrays a very believable, heavily damaged character, with more baggage than an airport reclaim conveyor belt. Graver is the more practical of the two, doing what needs to be done and ultimately only requiring a Post Op wash and brush up, to justify the actions taken.
But the film rests on Blunt and yet again she proves up to the task, even through intense action set pieces staged in real locations. Both tough, yet naive and finally almost drawn to a new way of “policing” that get results, quickly.
However the eternal dilemma remains (Nietzsche), “Beware that when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster”, which becomes more relevant every day in our modern world.
The location work is excellent and really adds to the authenticity. Director Denis Villeneuve also allows time to show the “real” low level people behind the drugs trade, the choices they have and make and consequences that spiral from them.
The film is violent, and reasonably graphic but it never feels exploitive, cutting away on occasions to the perpetrators reaction, being more effective than the now more usual gore porn.
An excellent, well scripted and acted thriller. Whilst downbeat and ultimately displaying a somewhat depressing world view, the film can hardly be criticised for “telling it like it is”