November 3, 2015
Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is an FBI operative who was invited by the CIA agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to join his mission by to close down the operations of a major Mexican drug cartel doing business in the US. She felt disturbed that she had to work with a mysterious "agent" Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro), who seemed to have total carte blanche to crack this case however which way, legally or not.
Emily Blunt's character Kate volunteered for this mission with the intention of getting back at the man responsible for the death of her men. However, for the whole film, I could not get over the impression that she was not ever the right person for this job. The way Blunt plays her, Kate always looked like a fish out of water -- nervous, clueless, reckless. Was that intentional? Alejandro himself mentions this, "You look like a little girl when you are scared." She had that look for the whole film it seemed.
That was my one major problem with the story of this film. I take it that Kate is the person we are supposed to identify with, the outsider among men who were well-aware of the crooked system. She was supposed to be the main character, yet somehow it felt like she was not even supposed to be there at all. Why was she even chosen to join this mission in the first place, when it was obvious that she did not fit in and may cause problems?
Emily Blunt has gone a long way since she first captured my attention in "The Devil Wears Prada". We know from "Edge of Tomorrow" that she can play an all-out action hero. She further shows her versatility here with a sensitive portrayal of a flawed character. The character of Kate is my problem, not the actress. Here we have an action film with a female star in the top billing, yet her naive character was never the action hero we would expect.
Benicio del Toro, with his squinty eyes and languid aura, is known for playing cool unruffled characters, and he plays another one here. The title word "Sicario" is the Spanish word for "hitman," and del Toro sure looks like formidable one. The last thirty minutes or so were totally del Toro's. That climactic scene around the dinner table may be one of the most chilling I have seen. Del Toro killed that scene with his ice cold performance, and we the audience would be breathless when it's over. Word is there is going to be a sequel and it will all be about del Toro's character Alejandro. Kate will not even be in the sequel it seems.
The technical aspects of the film are by no means unimaginative or dull, as the generic-looking poster might make you suspect. The cinematography by Roger Deakins was spectacular even if the subject was bleak, like deserts of Texas or the mean streets of Juarez. The music of Johann Johannson was eerie and unsettling, perfectly complementing the dark yet dynamic theme of the film. The sound effects mixing was an essential feature of this film and it was done very well to vivify the violence of events even as they happen offscreen. This was certainly an action film of a higher order as put together by director Denis Villeneuve. 8/10.