Kyle J. Steenblik

Sicario is Severe, Harsh, Bleak and Thrilling

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4 stars out of 5

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Sicario
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber
Running time 121 minutes
Rated R for strong violence, grisly images, and language

Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is an FBI special agent in Phoenix Arizona, working in a kidnapping taskforce. When a raid to recover hostages from known drug dealers reveals an extraordinarily gruesome and violent scene she is given the opportunity to volunteer for a special operation to take down those responsible. Macer is teamed up with CIA operative Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), and the mysterious Columbian defense consultant Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro). With a team of Special Forces, they infiltrate Juarez Mexico to intentionally escalate the war on the Mexican drug cartel. Along the way, Macer is faced to confront some very harsh realities about the situation, and the conflict in which she is fighting when she can no longer tell friend from foe.


Sicario is a terrific punch to the gut, but is ultimately unsatisfying for the fantastic escalation on display. The lulls in action are punctuated with harsh violence, and tension that never breaks.  The film rushes out of the gates with a horrific scene that unfortunately never fully pays off.  There is so much buildup that the ending is so anticlimactic that I was almost angry with the filmmakers.  The visceral response I felt should be a testament to how effectively Denis Villeneuve directed this film.  With a story wrought with danger and enemies around every corner actors Blunt, Brolin, and del Torro, dissolved into their characters each in turn wavering between the light and dark.  Their performances were all undeniably strong, without these strong performances this film would be beyond a mess.  Blunt was a solid female lead, easily able to hold her ground as her character struggled with doing the right thing, but even knowing what the right thing was.  Brolin was likeable one moment, and utterly despicable the next, he played his character with an understated air of authority and superiority I found easy to love-hate.  Of all, I believe Benicio del Torro had one of the best performances of his career, his quiet menacing persona felt dangerous every moment he was on screen.

This film is so depressingly bleak and harsh because it felt so very real, none of the violence was outside what could be seen in news footage, it almost hurt to watch.  It was far from the macabre entertaining violence of an action film, little was reserved, and there was no safe harbor.

I desperately want to recommend this film because it is so incredibly well made, but it left me feeling completely depressed.  It was highly effective at soliciting an emotional response; I do not know that anyone in the audience would be completely unaffected.  With a strong constitution, and a strong stomach at times, this film will stick in your memory for a long time.

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