Year of Release: 2015
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, Victor Garber
Running Time: 121 minutes
Genre: crime, drama, action, thriller
This is a powerful crime thriller. Following a raid on a suspected Mexican drug cartel's safehouse, young FBI agent Kate Marcer (Blunt) is recommended for a task force led by CIA agent Matt Graver (Brolin) and involving the ruthless and mysterious Alejandro (del Toro). The task force's mission is to bring down the powerful cartel which owned the safehouse. However, as the operation progresses, Kate becomes increasingly concerned about the task force's brutal tactics, and dubious morality.
There has been no shortage of gritty thrillers about drugs and guns on the Mexican-American border, but this is certainly one of the better ones. It's a complex story that deals with the moral questions of the "War on Drugs", and how it has the potential to corrupt the very people whose job it is to protect, and the lines between the good guys and the bad guys are completely blurred here. The title, "sicario", is Mexican for "hitman", and that applies both to the cartels and the task force assigned to bring them down.
In the lead role Emily Blunt has too little to do, initially she is the audience surrogate, as the new person on the team she is there to get the situation and the mission explained to her/us. However, she becomes the heart of the film. She provides the film's humanity and moral compass, along with Daniel Kaluuya as Kate's protective partner and friend. Benicio del Toro shines as the quietly terrifying Alejandro who is mostly quietly in the background until he snaps into action in truly shocking ways.
The pacing flags at times, and the story is a little shapeless, but this is well above the typical crime thriller and provides much food for thought. The action scenes are well handled and exciting. It's a fascinating, and at times gripping thriller, and by the end it is devastating.