'Sicario' review: Brilliant, taut descent into the murky war on drug cartels
What "Apocalypse Now" was to the Vietnam War, "Sicario" (opening in theaters nationwide Oct. 2) is to the morally ambiguous and ever escalating war against the drug cartels.
In short: Idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is recruited to join a task force led by two mysterious government operatives (Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro) for an off-the-books mission to take down a powerful Mexican drug cartel. (Watch the trailer)
"Sicario" is a deliberately paced and relentlessly taut descent into the murky war against the drug cartels. Macer (played with brilliant steeliness by Blunt) is the audience's POV as much as she represents an ideal that many of us want to share. Although Macer's character is familiar with the brutality of the Mexican drug cartel, she remains an idealistic FBI agents who believes in gathering evidence and building prosecutable cases against suspects. But when she joins the enigmatic task force, Macer steps into a ruthless and ends-justify-the-means world that does not play by the rules she so firmly believes in.
Brolin and Del Toro's characters drive the thematic core of "Sicario." They operate with an almost laid-back and droll attitude to the graphic violence around them. While Macer is constantly on edge and unable to rest, Brolin's character strolls around the office in flip flops and easily drifts to a peaceful sleep. Macer asks Del Toro's character how the cartels are structured, to which he dryly replies that she might as well as how a clock works. Brolin and Del Toro's characters are all too familiar with the cartels - and they are Macer's elusive guides into the frontlines of the grim drug war along the Mexican border.
Despite the star power of Blunt, Brolin and Del Toro, the true star of star of "Sicario" is the film's relentlessly tense tone. A quiet tension permeates even the less "action-packed" moments -- ratcheting up to an all-out, nerve-ratting intensity during several action sequences. From the very beginning of "Sicario," the film firmly establishes that virtually anything can happen at any moment and anyone can turn out to be working for the cartels.
Del Toro steals this film as the mysterious agent who has an intimate knowledge of the cartels and instills fears in any of the cartel members he meets. Del Toro has made his claim for a Best Supporting Actor nomination with this chilling performance. And not since "The Social Network" has a composer crafted a soundtrack that drives such a grim tone.
Final verdict: "Sicario" is one of the more thematically and morally complex films of 2015 -- and it is perhaps the strongest pure crime drama of the year. This haunting and brilliant film is a must-see of 2015.
"Sicario" opens in theaters additional Sept. 25 and in theaters nationwide Oct. 2. This crime drama is rated R for strong violence, grisly images, and language.