SICARIO —so many cop films come & go, and so many are so trite (“You’re going down, Santiago!”) that it’s always a relief and a surge of adrenaline when a winning hand cuts through a too-often marked deck. This 2015 ace joins ranks with diamonds Traffic, End Of Watch and Elite Squad: The Enemy Within in looking at the price exacted by the failed & failing international War on Drugs catastrophe. Here, it’s an assorted strike force battling the cartel in blood-soaked Juarez, Mexico.*
“You should move to a small town, somewhere the rule of law still exists. You will not survive here. You are not a wolf, and this is a land of wolves now.”
The team: Emily Blunt as a nervy FBI agent, Benecio del Toro as a Colombian detective out to avenge the slaughter of his family, and Josh Brolin as the cool CIA overseer. Dispensing with cliche, all three are in top form, under the tight direction of Denis Villeneuve, an expert at evoking tension, witness his previous Polytechnique and Incendies. Keen on the visual language of the art, Villeneuve and del Toro cut down 90% of the dialogue scriptwriter Taylor Sheridan had originally penned for the intense actor—who ‘broods’ as well as anyone in filmdom—, the director observing “movies are about movement, character, and presence, and Benicio had all that.”
The movie has violence, but it shrewdly (and thankfully) doesn’t wallow in it for cheap shock exploitation value. The dialogue-free superstar of the piece is the great Roger Deakins’ masterful cinematography, complemented by Joe Walker’s sleek editing and a buzzing score from Johan Johannsson. All three of those credits received Oscar nominations, and the movie did a good $80,600,000 against a relatively trim cost of $30,000,000.
Grim & feverish, relentless & gripping all the way through 121 minutes, with Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya and Jeffrey Donovan.
* City fathers and business owners of Ciudad Juarez down in beleaguered Chihuahua understandably took issue with the bleak portrayal of their city. Murders were down to a paltry 300-a-year, after a ghastly 3000 in 2010. For obvious reasons beyond offended officialdom (like, perhaps, surviving?), the film was shot across the border in El Paso, and most of it up in Albuquerque, New Mexico (we assume with the co-operation of one ‘Walter White’). Dear bigots: who out there, besides bought-off political whores, doesn’t recognize the Drug War as one of the cruelest farces ever perpetrated? The real drug cartel has always operated out of Washington D.C. and the banksters who own it. The hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of traumatized matter about as much to the ultimate el hefes as your vote does. Courageous reporting and artistic interpretations like this film are about as close to ‘justice’ as you’re going to get. Que Dios bendiga al pueblo de Mexico.