Sicario: A Difficult Film About a Difficult Topic
The lighting is harsh, the landscape is ugly, the body count is high and the performances are outstanding, even if the characters are difficult to like. Sicaro is an ugly film full of ugly choices about a difficult subject.
Since 2006, the Mexican drug war has killed nearly 165,000 people, with even more missing.
The drug cartels fight each other for control of a billion dollar business, and the body counts keep climbing.
Last week the Mexican government released new data showing that between 2007 and 2014 — a period that accounts for some of the bloodiest years of the nation’s war against the drug cartels — more than 164,000 people were victims of homicide. Nearly 20,000 died last year alone, a substantial number, but still a decrease from the 27,000 killed at the peak of fighting in 2011
Sicario (the name means hitman) is a film about FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) who is working in the front lines of the drug war in Arizona, and what it means when she is asked to “volunteer” for an multi-agency operation.
It turns out that there is more than meets the casual eye to this multi-agency operation. Kate’s new boss Matt Graver(Josh Brolin) wears flip-flops, is a devotee of the impromptu nap, and isn’t your usual by the book govermnment agent. They travel with Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) who can hold a camera when just sitting still, looking menacing and not answering very many of Kate’s questions.
As the film proceeds, it becomes harder and harder to watch how Blunt is treated. While her FBI partner Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) treats her like an equal, the same isn’t true of her volunteer gig with the interagency team. In her new gig, Kate is literally bashed around, battered by her crew, belittled by her new “team” while being treated like a little girl, verbally assaulted for getting in the way or even being treated as bait for various operations.
When the ethics of what’s happening around her become questionable, and Kate speaks up, she’s physically manhandled and mocked.
As a woman, Sicario is a hard film to watch.
It’s an important film about an important topic, but that doesn’t make it an easy, pleasant or pleasurable viewing.