Drugs are bad and judged from a scene where corpses are hung upside down on a bridge in Juarez, Mexico in Sicario, cartels and drug wars are even worse. In this movie, Denis Villeneuve shows us something far more sinister than those two things. How morality and humanity erode when the joint mission of interagency against drugs is not going as it is imagined.
We see it all through Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) glasses, a bright and idealistic young FBI agent. The film opens with a horrific scene when Kate finds dozens of bodies lying behind the walls of the house in her mission to solve a kidnapping case. Through this scene, Villenuve sets the suspens atmosphere of the Sicario that grips the audience until the end of the movie.
Having a good track record, Kate is promoted by her boss, Dave (Victor Garber) to take on an inter-agency joint mission led by Matt (Josh Brolin). It did not say whether Matt was a CIA agent, NSA, or DEA. But if you want to guess, which agency try to allow the agent to use flip-flops? Kate joins for reasons she does not quite understand, but she clearly wants to catch the person who blew most of her team in the first operation. From here, Kate meets with Matt's subordinate / assistant / friend (?) Named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) who is much more mysterious than Matt.
Kate realized something was wrong when the mission that was originally going to be executed in El Paso, Texas instead switch to Juarez, Mexico. With the tremendous cinematography of veterans Roger Deakins and the gripping scoring of Johann Johannsson, Villenuve brings tension as the team crosses the American-Mexican border that culminates in a shooting scene amidst the highway congestion. This scene is brilliantly made, where Deakins gives a smart composition. Villenueve keeps the scene realistic, far from spectacular but with such intensity.
A similar tension is also applied during the peak scene where the team is hunting in a tunnel. Deakins took turns wearing night-vision cameras with conventional cameras while the sounds of scattered bullets were heard here and there. The scene itself takes place outside the camera, which gives the impression that Villeneuve submitted an interpretation of the cruelty that occurred to the audience, while emphasizing its psychological impact.
Though from the premise of being impressed, Sicario is not about dropping a big kingpin or about the drug war itself. Like other Villeneuve films, Sicario discusses the emotional consequences of all actions taken by the characters. In addition to being a spectator glasses, Kate is also a moral awareness of the law and human rights. He knows what's right, but when faced with a tragic reality, Kate realizes that she can not do anything about it. Even the moral support of his colleagues at the FBI, Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) did not have a significant effect.
With acting that is barely a lot of fuss, all actors give a solid appearance. Yes, including Kaluuya who only appeared at a glance. Mostly only through gestures or facial expressions. Brolin best represents Matt who seems to have his own agenda. There is something mysterious with Alejandro behind his composure. Del Toro makes us guess the intimacy of Alejandro with violence, something that became a reality of tradition when it was revealed in the movie's climax.
Without putting aside the high caliber of the film and the solid performance of 3 key characters, I feel the moral ambiguity that Villeneuve presents - or rather Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the script - not as much of the previous films as Prisoners and Enemy, and there is a bit of irony here. Perhaps because a similar case has been too often raised to the big screen or - more tragic - it may also be due to how familiar such moral degradation is in everyday life that we hardly care.