This is going to be a short one. I read the great reviews and decided to see Sicario, the story of, as described by IMDB, “an idealistic FBI agent [who] is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.”
I was most interested in seeing Emily Blunt go in another direction from her earlier work. As always, she is solid, but it is Benicio Del Toro who, again, steals the show. I could tell you now beautifully it’s shot by the legendary Roger Deakins, or how Blunt proves once again (after Edge of Tomorrow) that she can play tough in addition to funny (The Devils Wears Prada) and musically talented (Into the Woods).
We could spend some time on that fact that this is just the latest entry into the “drugs are bad and the war on drugs is hell” category. It’s like Traffic in some ways, or The Counselor or Requiem for a Dream in certain other ways. I could even go into detail about what a mess the film is structurally, and how confusing it is in terms of who I am supposed to be following.
But the big question that remains for me after viewing it is, “Who is this movie for?” We already know Blunt can play tough, and that Josh Brolin has become a solid actor. We know that Del Toro seems to lift every film he’s in, and has an inimitable screen presence. I already know that Deakins is an artist of the first rank. We already know that the war on drugs isn’t going to be won, and that the good guys aren’t always good and the bad guys have hearts and families, too.
The film touches on all these things, but never melds them together into a cohesive vision. I thought when Del Toro seemed to take over the film that we might see a kind of Marion Crane-to-Normal Bates in Psycho type of shift of audience allegiance. No chance. We’re never allowed in enough. There is a kind of descent-into-hell journey toward the climax that is visually intriguing, but it doesn’t resonate as much as just looks great.
If we want to see another great supporting performance by Del Toro or want to view another example of a great cinematographer’s work, see Sicario. If not, you’re in good company.