Poster

Holy fuck. Those are the only two words that will come out of your mouth after watching Sicario. An early favorite for Best Picture at the Oscars, Sicario is well-crafted with amazing acting performances from Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin. If there’s a better movie coming out later this year, I can only imagine it being double the pleasure, double the fun with Tom Hardy playing twins in Legend.

Calling Sicario a tense action thriller is an understatement.

My breath was hastened. There was a weight on my chest. Sprawled out in a cozy recliner, I squirmed around uncomfortably. This fucking movie gave me anxiety. Trust me, I’m familiar with the feeling. Somehow, merely driving through the streets into Mexico and back across the border managed to become insanely intense. No need to fret, there’s a payoff for all that fierce tension too.

Driving

From the very first scene—a raid on a suburban home in Chandler, AZ—you know you are in for a ride. It is bumpy and uncomfortable at times. The stakes are established early. This is the war on drugs where raids and busts are simply scratching the surface. But be careful of what you might find when you go deeper. This is awful people doing awful things—the stuff white of people’s nightmares.

A veritable game of chess, the important pieces like kings and queens are kept out of sight. For the most part, everyone we see are pawns in one army or another. On the American side, there are Department of Justice advisors Matt Graver (played by Josh Brolin) and his mysterious partner Alejandro (played by Benicio Del Toro). However, the audience experiences the action through the eyes of FBI agent Kate Macer (played by Emily Blunt). Just like Kate, we’re along for the ride through this hellscape.

Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt is predictably fantastic, which you should expect if you watched her in Looper and Edge of Tomorrow. You see Blunt’s vulnerability and feel her emotional state deteriorate the deeper they delve into the business of the drug trade. Any normal person would have broken down a long time ago.

In my own personal game of recognizing actors from my favorite TV shows, Jon Bernthal (Shane from The Walking Dead) pops up in an extended cameo. As usual, Bernthal is just grand and he brought more to the role than the flat character that was written on paper. From the Fifteen Million Merits episode of Black Mirror, Daniel Kaluuya plays Reggie Wayne, friend of Kate and fellow FBI agent. Kaluuya is surprisingly enjoyable as the skeptic. The supporting cast elevates the content even in mundane scenes.

Benicio Del Toro

With such an incredibly well-rounded movie, even the cinematography demands your attention with its dramatic presence. I live in Arizona and the only Southwestern landscape that I find breathtaking is the red rocks of Sedona. But the wide angle shots of the desert and barren wasteland along the border are beautiful in this movie. The framing of several scenes depicts a strong sense of foreboding.

The doom is impending for a reason. And it is always inevitable.

Sooner or later, it all catches up to you. The river of shit is unavoidable. In a sense, that’s a recurring theme in Sicario. Although Emily Blunt’s character Kate wants maintain her moral compass, it’s hard not to spin out of control when you realize that the most effective response to terror is terror. Hidden bodies in a suburban home is just the beginning. Moving beyond the surface only reveals more evil. The water in the deep end is dark and murky. While everyone else is doing whatever necessary to get the job done, all Kate wants to do is follow procedure. In this world, following procedure will get you killed.

Sicario is sick and twisted, but it is wisely infused with some levity.

Josh Brolin

Josh Brolin’s character Matt Graver is shockingly humorous with his dickish persona. You never quite trust him, but he still comes off as likeable. Benicio Del Toro is sneaky great with a raw, mysterious performance. Everything—writing, casting, acting, directing—works together harmoniously. The score made my heart pound during the right moments. At this point, I’ve only watched Sicario once, but it won’t stay that way for long. I look forward to uncovering more nuances in future viewings. Sicario doesn’t have the same philosophical underpinnings as No Country for Old Men, but it belongs in the same stratosphere of great movies. Director Denis Villeneuve has a phenomenal piece of art here with Sicario.

Expect Sicario to at least garner Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Picture this year. Emily Blunt could be in the competition for Best Actress and there are other fitting categories as well. Sicario excels by giving its stars the room to breathe in their roles.

If Sicario is any indication, the war on drugs is an unbreakable cycle of horror. There’s no winning. We are all losers in this game. You might want to take a shower after this cinematic experience.

Shower

5 out of 5 stars

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