04:00 October 11, 2015
By: Fritz Esker

*** out of ****

Fall is here and that means a larger number of movies aimed at adults dealing with difficult subjects. The season’s off to a good start with Sicario, a thriller that doubles as an indictment of the war on drugs.

Emily Blunt plays an FBI agent tasked to a special force headed by a Department of Defense “advisor” (Josh Brolin) and aided by a mysterious agent (Benicio Del Toro). After recently stumbling across a house full of dead bodies during a raid, she’s eager to make a more tangible difference in preventing such violence. But she’s quickly disillusioned at her task force’s willingness to succeed by any means necessary.

In a standard Hollywood film, Blunt’s character would at least achieve a moral victory in her efforts to both fight drug dealers and maintain some semblance of her own soul. But she’s rendered almost completely helpless by the forces around her. It’s a dark statement for a mainstream film to make.

Even though that point was almost certainly intentional, it does pose a problem as it renders the protagonist as almost a bystander in the story (she really doesn’t factor much into the finale at all).  It’s not a fatal flaw, though, as this is still an intelligent, well-made film by director Denis Villeneuve and writer Taylor Sheridan. 

The film’s standouts include cinematographer Roger Deakins, possibly the best in the world at his job. Despite its grim subject, Sicario is a beautiful film to look at. As for the actors, Del Toro makes the strongest impression, exuding menace while always remaining very quiet and still.  

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