War on drugs is a dirty business, and Soderberg portrayed the many complex, interlinked angles in his ambitious film Traffic, while Johnnie To captured the constant game of one-upmanship that it necessitates in Drug War. Villeneuve covered a bit of both worlds in the dark, gripping, visceral and smartly crafted Sicario. In its murky evocation of the Machiavellian theme of becoming a devil in order to defeat one, and therefore blurring the lines of morality, it might remind one of Bigolow’s engrossing Zero Dark Thirty; incidentally, both featured dogged, strikingly attractive and multilayered heroines – though very different characters otherwise – forced to carve their places in a world dominated by men. The film begins on an ominous note when FBI agent Kate (Emily Blunt), while leading a raid on a drug cartel hideout, stumbles upon a horde of rotten corpses. Soon enough she’s enlisted into a mysterious, elite unit – headed by cocky CIA guy Matt (Josh Brolin) and shadowy “consultant” Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) – which, instead of waging small battles, plans to take the war across the border right to the cartel bosses’ doorsteps. Understandably, a mission like this isn’t just fraught with dangers and cloaked in secrecy, it also involves subverting due processes and breaching ethical boundaries; that, along with Alejandro’s problematic motives and cold ruthlessness, and Kate’s deep discomfort at what she witnesses, elevated it beyond a standard thriller. It was further aided by superb turns by Blunt and del Toro (Brolin, however, was underutilized), moody atmosphere, visually engrossing cinematography, deliberate pacing and riveting score. A set-piece near the beginning, involving a fleet of agents driving into Juárez to extradite a key henchman from Mexico, was remarkably staged.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Action