Starring Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin. Rated 14A.
Sicario opens with the discovery of 42 plastic-wrapped corpses inside a miserable Arizona tract home and only gets more intense from there. From the perspective of Emily Blunt’s FBI agent, Kate, this grim event is a sign that Mexico’s drug war has crossed the border big-time. When she’s recruited into a special task force charged with smoking out a mysterious drug lord, Kate has to accept that all borders are meaningless, including the ones separating the good guys from the bad.
Working from a tight script by actor Taylor Sheridan, Quebec’s Denis Villeneuve directs Sicario with the same ruthless lack of sentiment he brought to 2013’s breakthrough Prisoners, joined again by the Coen brothers’ favourite lensman, Roger Deakins. A white-knuckle set piece takes Deakins back to those twin hellholes from No Country for Old Men, El Paso and Juárez, where Kate is hauled into a not-so-legal operation that starts with headless stiffs strung from bridges on one side of the line and ends in a traffic jam and a fresh pile of bodies on the other. And this constitutes a good day to her temporary commander, Matt, a gum-chewing, sandal-wearing agent of mysterious provenance and an even more enigmatic form of idealism played by Josh Brolin (still on a blinding roll after, what, a decade now?).
Matt’s a pussy compared to Alejandro, mind you (Benicio Del Toro, given a part that finally puts his fearsome energy to good use again), his colleague in a caper that simultaneously horrifies, endangers, and leads Kate to suspect that she’s being used by forces that exist way outside any morality she’s acquainted with, let alone such antiquities as oversight.
It’s a brilliant feint on the part of these extremely talented filmmakers. Shoot a straight arrow into a gravity-free clusterfuck like the drug war, and watch how it gets sent back tied in a bloody knot with its head snapped off.