Sicario is a powerful well written and visceral depiction of the horrors and ambiguities of America’s war on drugs that harkens back to similarly excellent films in the Mexican drug war genre like Miss Bala (2011) and Traffic (2000).

Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a fearless young female FBI agent, who wants to make a difference but is growing frustrated by the system. She volunteers to help a black-ops mission that promises to find and stop the people at the top, responsible for the terror and deaths on both sides of the border.

What Kate soon learns is that no one is playing by the rules anymore and in order to catch the kind of rabid individuals for whom life and brutality go hand in hand, she may have to give up everything she believes in. One mysterious brooding character on the team played by Benicio del Toro tells her; “You will not survive here. You are not a wolf. This is the land of wolves now.” 

French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, Incendies (2010), Prisoners (2013), Enemy (2013), is at the top of his game with this latest crime thriller about Mexican drug cartels and the war on drugs that continues to claim the lives of thousands of innocent people. 

The lawless desert wasteland between the US and Mexican border is scarred with corpses both human and vehicular. Nothing lives there for long and aerial vistas of this devastated no man’s land look like satellite images of an alien planet, testament to the changing landscape that has resulted from the increasing violence of the drug war.

Sicario, which means hit man in Mexico, gives us a searing sense of unease that we know something evil is lurking beneath the surface unseen, like the pulse-pounding opening sequence in which a police raid on a seemingly normal house from the outside hides horrific bone-chilling secrets on the inside.

Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) who head the black-ops team are tasked with stirring up enough chaos and fear to flush out some of the bigger fish that will lead them to the men who are orchestrating the violence from the top.

Visually striking and authentic looking in every way as filmed by master cinematographer Roger Deakins, Sicario is haunting in its disturbing depiction of a dark underground world of death and fear as seen through the eyes of Emily Blunt’s relatively new agent who has many questions that cannot be easily answered.

The paralyzing suspense is palpable as we follow Kate deeper into hostile territory and we’re constantly kept in the dark about who can be trusted and who is operating with their own agenda.

This is an in-your-face hard hitting action drama that pulls no punches as it executes its objective by any means available. The film asks difficult questions about how far we are willing to go to make a difference and how far will we follow the path that may lead us astray and destroy our own moral compass.

Watch for Denis Villeneuve’s next collaboration with Roger Deakins, which is reported to be the much anticipated sequel to Ridley Scott’s cult classic Sci-fi film Blade Runner (1982), scheduled for release in 2017.


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