Sicario Review: Blurred Lines

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Sicario opens intensely with a gorgeously filmed and expertly paced scene of horror as an FBI team conducts a raid on a house that belongs to the Mexican drug cartel. It’s loud and quiet in all the right places, a work of art in and of itself. There are scenes like this spread out throughout the film, all of which work just as well as this one, if not better. But that only makes it more of a letdown that the scenes between these shootouts don’t seem to be trying to get us to care about any of the characters involved in them.

In these moments, the film is more focused on not-so-subtly showing the extreme, unethical lengths that the US will go to defend its southern border. Sicario wants its audience to see that our methods make us no different than the drug cartels we’re fighting against, which may be true, but the message comes at the cost of character. There’s nothing to Emily Blunt’s Kate other than that she’s a really good cop until it’s far too late, while Josh Brolin’s gum-smackin’ Matt is too obvious of a vehicle for the film’s message to land with any semblance of realism.

The only real success story here in terms of character is Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro. There are times where his skills seems picked out of film like Taken instead of the world bathed in realism Sicario wants to achieve, but it doesn’t matter when del Toro starts lending the film some much-needed pathos. All of his scenes in the third act really sing as the mystery surrounding him is unshrouded and the themes take a backseat to character growth. Do these scenes save the film from itself? Almost, but not quite. While Kate’s final scene gives Blunt some last minute material to make it a solid performance, the closing moments of the film return to beating us over the head with its ideas. I left with a bad taste in my mouth, thus putting a damper on the hard work the film did in its third act.

It’s strange to label Sicario as just a solid action film with so many big ideas floating around. But those looking for more will certainly find more. The film seems so determined to give you more that it really just makes the great action scenes standout more. This subject deserves a smarter approach. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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