1. Sicario is by Denis Villeneuve, whose previous movies include Prisoners and Enemy. He specializes in tension. He wants to make you jump. When you hear that bass rumble, prepare yourself.
2. Sicario, the opening titles inform us, were the zealots in Jerusalem who hunted and killed the Roman oppressors. In Mexico the word means “hitman”. Later you realize that Emily Blunt is supposed to be the star, but someone else is in the title role.
3. Roger Deakins wields the camera, and the movie looks spectacular. It’s Juarez as hell, bleached to the bone by the desert sun. Dozens of corpses with plastic bags on their heads, sealed into the wall like casks of amontillado. Edgar Allan Poe could’ve written this.
4. We love Emily Blunt, but she looks uncomfortable and overwhelmed. In her defense, she’s supposed to be uncomfortable and overwhelmed as an FBI agent who is volunteered for a narcotics task force headed by a mysterious consultant who shows up at meetings wearing flip-flops. She is kept completely in the dark. When she asks them what is going on, she is told to listen and absorb the details. We know that she’s tough, but ‘tough’ is not the same as ‘grim’. And then the screenplay by Taylor Sheridan goes out of its way to undermine her. She is reduced to saying, “I’m going to tell.” (We remembered how in Zero Dark Thirty, Maya got to tell the CIA chief, “I’m the motherfucker who found (Bin Laden’s) house.”)
5. As the aforementioned consultant in flip-flops, Josh Brolin perfects the shit-eating grin. He’s been brought in to “dramatically overreact”, and he loves the chaos. Look at him, the tunnel raid is like the Fourth of July to him.
6. Benicio Del Toro, our friend pointed out, looks like he hasn’t slept in 20 years. He’s scary when he’s neatly folding his jacket, and terrifying when he speaks softly to the Mexicans at the border. He’s so badass that Villeneuve just let him take over the third act, and Sicario splits into an altogether different movie.
7. Sicario reminds us that when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back at you. The first part is a criticism of the drug war, and the second part embraces it.
Rating: Highly recommended.