Sicario will make you question many of your beliefs about right and wrong. A rather naïve FBI agent Kate Macer (Blunt) is voluntarily sent to work in an operation that is completely outside her familiar element. She has done a good job recently and is considered a sharp agent, street-wise, who is consequential in her work. We’re shown that right away, although she is seen to vomit after a successful operation she has led. After that, she is considered for a bigger operation in which the goal is to identify and take out a major cartel leader.
Enter Matt Graver (Brolin) and Alejandro (Del Toro) who are engaged in a plan to go across the Mexican border and reel in the Big Fish, the head of a major drug cartel. The tension of the film centers on Macer’s ethical pull between what she knows is right and the sensibilities of Matt and Alejandro. They rescue her any number of times when she makes errors in judgment, yet she still questions their means to an end. And so will the viewer, which is what I presume Villaneuve (director) and Taylor Sheridan (writer) had in mind as the essence of the film. They want us to put ourselves in Macer’s shoes and question what we would do in similar circumstances.
The three main actors are in their element, at their best, in their roles. Blunt is a complex mix of strength and naïveté; Brolin is enigmatic and playful; and Del Toro is typically shiver-producing in his intricate mix of the humane and brutal. Blunt is at her best, but I think the screenwriter did her a disservice by making her impulsive and less thoughtful than she should be at times.
A highlight for me was the cinematography of the master Roger Deakins. Over and over again, his perspective artistically guides the picture, as when we see armed men in uniforms and night goggles stealthily crossing a landscape scene toward an underground tunnel within the background of a gorgeous sunset, presumably expressing the hope that aggression (war) is justifiable and humane in the end.
All of that is left up to the viewer to decide in this finely drawn picture of the good trying to overcome evil. It provokes good discussions about the role of someone in Macer’s position, the efficacy of torture in obtaining information, and how closely we need to adhere to Constitutional rights when apprehending criminals.
Altogether a thoughtful, evocative film.