Directed by Denis Villenevue
Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin
Not a Hit…Man
By Mason Manuel
Are my puns getting tiresome? If you have to ask I guess… yeah. You know what else is getting tiresome? Underdeveloped female characters. Especially when they have so much potential by being played by talented actresses. Unfortunately this plus some drastic pacing issues makes mediocrity of what would otherwise be a rather entertaining movie.
Sicario is all about the grey area that is the war on drug cartels. How can the U.S. lay down enforcement on drug activity that happens outside our borders? What can DEA and FBI agents do within the walls of legality that can really make a dent in cartel business except clean up the mess that happens when drugs get over the border? This is the dilemma that FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) finds herself in. When a charismatic Josh Brolin shows up offering her a spot on a shady hush-hush group that he guarantees will do some real damage against the Mexican cartels, Kate instantly agrees. And that’s about all we learn of her motivations. She doesn’t like cartels for obvious reasons, so she joins a black ops team. We are told little to nothing about her personal life, her fears, her dreams, anything that really constitutes her as a human being. She has plenty of screen time but spends most of it either being told to cower behind her co-stars or ask questions that are infuriatingly never answered until the final 15 minutes of the 2 hour film. Emily Blunt does the most she can here, but she is given next to nothing to go on. Her character is meant to be reserved; fine. But with the limited depth of her character, she comes off more robotic than anything else.
What makes this all the more infuriating is that most of her co-stars are written incredibly well and performed with equal vigor. Josh Brolin plays Matt Graver, a CIA agent with each word he speaks dripping with nefarious intent. And yet the character is really quite charming. The first time we run into him, he is vigorously engaged in an official meeting… in flip flops and a Hawaii shirt. He constantly wears a goofy grin that reminds me of my brother when he knows he’s pissing me off but I can’t prove anything.
Then of course there is Alejandro Gillik played by the stellar Benicio del Toro. Quiet in times of heart stopping action, loud in moments of silence, his character is easily the main reason to see this film. There are simple frames of him simply staring into space or at another agent and I have to fall back into my seat because of how intense his gaze is. He also has a very engaging yet mysterious backstory.
He attempts to bounce this off of Blunt’s performance, being a mentoring father figure to her at times, comforting one moment and violent the next. Their relationship does not really begin to work until it’s two thirds of the way through the film. When they do connect, that is when the film truly begins to shine. It’s too bad that these moments are far and few between.
In an attempt to make the border look dangerous, Sicario spends a great deal of time on slow panning establishing shots of barren desert. Seriously, just desert. When the camera moves more into the cities, this effect is more, well effective. There is one particularly exciting scene where Kate is accompanying a legion of other agents in the black op squad just sitting in a car, but her surroundings are hellish. People are being hung from makeshift gallows near a train station, gunshots being heard within distance of a children’s playground and more are all about while Kate looks on in horror from her car. This scene is a genius reflection of Kate’s safe American world being flipped upside down, now seeing her homeland as one little car in a world of chaos. The scene ends in a climactic result that I won’t spoil but is definitely tense and one of the better moments so keep your eyes peeled.
Overall, Sicario suffers from pacing issues. Too much time is lost on Kate asking questions she gets no answers for. When action finally rolls around, it doesn’t feel as jarring as it should because we have spent the last 30 minutes watching debates in conference rooms. However, the third act is stellar when we FINALLY get some information as to the purpose of the squad and what Kate’s place is in all of it. There is also an excellent final scene between Blunt and del Toro that has to be seen to be believed. I just wish the film had set it up better. By the time all of these climatic events drop on us they feel shoddily executed and unearned. What could have been an awesome movie with a kickass female character ends up being slightly better than a Michael Bay film with Blunt being overshadowed by her much more detailed male co-star’s characters. RDR gives this shoddy piece of work a 5.5 out of 10.