HOLLYWOOD—It’s a difficult task in cinema to craft a movie that leaves an audience member on the edge of their seat, unnerved, but also amazed by what they’re watching unfold on the big screen. The film “Sicario” falls into the realm of a piece of cinema that will have audiences talking. Can a spectator have a preconceived notion about the movie before heading into the theater? Without a doubt, especially considering one of the flick’s stars is none other than Oscar-winner Benecio del Toro who grew to fame with his performance in the Steven Soderbergh drama “Traffic.”
Does “Sicario” have remnants of that flick? Yes and no. It has similar issues revolving the drug trafficking arena, but has violence that is quite tense, visceral, and in your face in a way that makes one gulp on more than one occasion. “Sicario” opens with a tense scene involving our lead, Kate (Emly Blunt) who is a member of the FBI Special Weapons and Tactics Teams who are investigating a kidnapping raid.
An explosion results in two officers being killed and Kate wounded. That incident turns to a chance meeting with her boss Dave (Victor Garber) who recommends her to Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), a Department of Defense adviser who is responsible for leading a team of top-notch agents who are looking for the person responsible for the explosion and kidnapping raid. They soon venture into a region of the US, where danger lurks everyone. One of the individuals behind the chaos is cartel boss Manuel Diaz (Bernardo P. Saracino), but there are many more players in the mix than what first is suspected.
The dynamic between Kate and Matt’s partner, Alejandro portrayed by Benicio del Toro is phenomenal. This is what clicks so well with “Sicario.” We have two characters who are polar opposites forced to work together for a common goal, but each have ulterior ways of dealing with the chaos that is certain to emerge.
There was one scene in the flick which is no spoiler, as it’s been teased in the TV spots and trailer that involves the group being entangled in a traffic jam that turns into a bloodbath. Yep, Kate learns very early that in the world that she has ventured into the rules she plays by doesn’t get one very far. That’s what I loved about watching this flick, watching this headstrong character, grapple with her morality, her fears and working alongside people she isn’t certain she can fully trust. The pressures get to Kate, and Blunt is fantastic in the role. We’ve seen Blunt in a variety of films, but “Sicario” really allows the actress to flex her acting chops in a way that is quite frankly a revelation in my opinion.
That is not to forget the work by del Toro who is presenting his A-game. His character is so layered, as a viewer one suspects he has a bigger role in the mission that becomes apparent as the narrative moves forward. “Sicario” which is written by Taylor Sheridan really focuses on a narrative that left me thoroughly engaged from start to finish, and with director Denis Villeneuve, the man behind the thriller “Prisoners” at the helm it works. Villeneuve knows how to craft those really tense moments to leave the audience wondering what will happen and to whom.
There are a few moments in “Sicario” that operate slightly slow and somewhat seem irrelevant, but those minor discrepancies don’t impact the movie too much. This is drama that socks the viewer in the gut and continues to do so until its final moment. If this movie is not on your list, it should be; it has awards contender written all over it.