Movie Reviews : Sicario (2015)
I'll concede that it's a bizarre timing to review a movie that came out two years ago. What's going on in Mexico with the drug cartels is very serious, but I believe it spawned plenty of terrible novels and movies. People use the continuous tragedy going on over there to legitimize bad writing, so I was afraid Sicario would suffer from it. I'm happy to announce that not only it's pretty great, but it found a pretty clever way to weasel around the borrowed pathos problem. So, I'm here to tell you why you should watch Sicario in 2018.
Oh, and it just arrived on Netflix, too. So, that helped!
Sicario is the story of Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), an FBI agent invited to take part in an interagency joint task force that aims to take down a high-ranked Sonora cartel member, Manuel Diaz (no one important). She travels to Juarez alongside DOD's Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and mysterious collaborator named Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) believed to be CIA, although it's not clear. They extradite Diaz' brother the United States, torture him and learn the existence of a tunnel used to smuggle drugs. And Matt and Alejandro have some serious fucking plans for that tunnel.
I know this sounds pretty run-of-the-mill for a movie description, but Sicario isn't that. What makes it more interesting and efficient than most border/drug cartels movies is that it almost entirely avoids the question of the human cost. Sure, there are victims in the first scene, gory photos shown here and there, and an ending of a disturbing brutality, but it isn't what Sicario focuses on. It's a movie about the psychological aspect of the border, seen from the eyes of an American, who is used to social order, clear boundaries and, generally, a distinction between good and evil.
That itself, somewhat explains why the human cost of the drug cartels activities is so high : personal beefs between extremely powerful man become quite abstract in terms of repercussions. They are so locked on their target, whatever explodes and dies doesn't matter. It's not that different from Wall Street. Evil occurs when you have the means to never hear the word "no". I thought Sicario did a terrific job at confronting this insular, competitive state of mind to its repercussions. In this case, it focuses on someone's inherently moral's pysche, but the movie alludes to horrors and witnessing of it.
Taylor Sheridan's brilliant, nuanced script is impeccably supported by the direction of my boy Denis Villeneuve, who really uses the desert to get the point across. The tunnel scene, for example, features only terrified soldiers and no enemies. There are gun sounds, people shouting in Spanish from afar, but no actual bodies. There only is the tunnel, the "soldiers" (technically police officers and government officials) and the theoretical mission, getting to the other side. Over there, in the desert, Matt and Alejandro's word is the law, a reality made utterly terrifying by Villeneuve.
Sicario is not the first story told about the psychological side of the border. I highly suggest you read Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias if you want a definitive border story. That one'll stick with you, I promise. I do suggest you watch Sicario too, because it explores the psychological mechanisms behind great horrors. The personal issues between high-achievers that control the destinies of innocent people. It tells that story in a clever, underplayed fashion that doesn't call attention to itself. Why should you watch Sicario in 2018? Simply because it's a strong movie that explores themes that go beyond its setting. It is bound to age like fine wine.