Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a decorated FBI agent, but after she’s enlisted to pursue a Mexican drug-baron her idealistic demeanour is destroyed forever.
Macer witnesses despicable acts all carried out in the name of the war against drugs at the border of the United States and Mexico. Whilst these violent acts may not be entirely legal that’s the world she has unwittingly become embroiled in.
At first she is told that her mission is to eradicate a powerful drug cartel, but it becomes much bigger than that. Only able to trust her partner Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya), Macer has to think fast and act ever quicker.
To understand the world that Macer has been exposed to you first need to understand the meaning of Sicario as it perfectly encapsulates the feel of this movie. In the opening shot, the origin of the word “Sicario” is explained. It comes from the name given to the Roman zealots that occupied Palestine. However in Mexico, the word means hitman.
Massacres are committed every day and Macer’s off-the-grid government taskforce team turn a blind eye, as through too tunnel-visioned to see what’s right in front of them. Or maybe they’ve seen so much death and destruction that they have become numb to it all.
One such emotionless team member is covert assassin Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). As their investigation progress his methods become more chaotic and soon he’s acting like the megalomaniacs they are trying to overthrow. In Alejandro’s world the end not only justifies the means, it requires them.
Another member of the team is Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), a man who isn’t quite what he seems to be, one moment calm and collected, the next willing to kill anyone to finish the job.
Director Denis Villeneuve creates beautiful vistas only to putrefy them the next moment. We are shown a country beyond salvation, with life so cruelly continuing not caring one bit for the horror that people are subjected to each and every day.
Tricked into thinking they are travelling to El Paso, Kate ends up crossing the border into Juarez, Mexico. In Juarez the stench of corruption is as strong as the smell of the decomposing corpses that line the streets.
It’s not long until the team’s presence is felt and a gang starts to pursue them hoping to gun them down. But before they can shoot Graver, Alejandro and their band of merry men shoot to kill. Like I said their means are not entirely legal, or even moral.
This doesn’t sit well with Mercer and as time goes on the situation only worsens. If she ever wants to escape this nightmare she needs to keep her mouth shut. The truth won’t set her free, it will kill her.
Villeneuve’s Sicario is a masterpiece of filmmaking. This movie describes, with surgical precision, the fatal and bloody desecration of Mexico at the hands of drugs barons as a result of decades of cartel wars.
He has created a socio-political nightmare fuelled by greed and power. Few movies this year will have such a clear and defined structure and unflinching approach towards a situation that appears to be beyond salvation, while showing at the same time that life nevertheless continues.
Blunt, Del Toro and Brolin excel in their lead roles helping to give us a sense of the human cost that the war on drugs has caused. The death and destruction in this movie isn’t glorified like in so many other drug cartel classics, instead it’s part of a rich tapestry that Villeneuve weaves, never wavering in his efforts to show us the true side of the story, however ugly.
By Ruth Walker