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REVIEW: “Sicario” – Inside the War on Drugs

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.
An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

“Sicario (meaning hitman in Spanish),” is a very intense and violent drug drama that takes an up-close look at the war on drugs in Mexico and the United States. The movie stars Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro Gillick, Josh Brolin as CIA officer Matt Graver, and Emily Blunt as FBI agent Kate Macer. The three of them lead a team trying to locate the highest level drug lord in Mexico, Manuel Díaz. (Gillick has a personal reason for wanting to find Diaz’s boss Fausto Alarcón, which is revealed later in the story.

The film examines whether the ends really justify the means, something Macer questions along the way. Gillick and Graver are not above torturing someone whom they believe may have crucial information or using other devious methods to get them closer to their goal. Macer seems to be the only one who is not willing to abandon her morals, which in this line of work can be problematic.

The stresses of her work seem to preclude Macer from having a love life. So, when she meets a local officer at a bar on the United States-Mexico border, they start drinking and flirting, and eventually go back to where she is staying to hook up. (The officer is a friend of one of her colleague’s.) Macer’s decision to go home with this man backfires on her when she discovers an item of his that makes her suspicious of his motives and loyalty.

The movie, structured as a procedural (the methods and procedures of the craft), certainly bears resemblance to “Zero Dark Thirty,” the film about the hunt to find Osama bin Laden. Blunt has the Jessica Chastain role of the determined female who is trying to prove herself to her male colleagues. With both you have a relentless pursuit of an evil criminal leader with much power and influence.

All the performances are strong, with Del Toro in particular giving an exceptional performance. The editing and cinematography are also first-rate.

The film did come up short with the ending. I thought that things should have wrapped up in the prior scene. The climax as is felt unnecessary.

With this movie, we are able to see how complex the drug war is and how not everyone is who they seem (the cops can sometimes be on the side of the criminals). While the film puts forth a bleak portrait, this is a situation with many casualties and no end in sight.

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