Movie Review: Sicario (2015)

imageA meditative and engaging slow-burn thriller about U.S. operatives infiltrating the drug culture on our Southern border, Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario (B) unravels its mysteries in small bursts but doesn’t quite achieve the expected heft of its high-minded messages. For a while it is so focused on visuals of topographies such as highways and desert passageways that it could have been directed by Google Earth. Enter FBI agent Emily Blunt who transforms from spy to soldier when she seeks to understand the machinations behind the horror of kidnappings related to drug kingpins. Blunt does an admirable job in a rather inert central role, but the meandering screenplay marginalizes the protagonist a bit before the final act. Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin play the men who call our heroine to action, and they too are effective in their underwritten roles. Del Toro gets to shine in a climactic encounter and embodies the Byzantine traits of warriors in a convoluted and unwinnable drug war. The most engaging sequence of the film showcases a shootout in broad daylight in heavy traffic in which multiple killings don’t even make the nightly news. Viewers may get the feeling that even a highly trained squad with history of infiltrating drug lords is only scratching the surface. The film does very little for the Juarez tourism board. Overall the movie is taut, tense and transportive. It just barely misses the mark of becoming the definitive film on its subject.