I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely certain of exactly what happened in Sicario (2015), however I don’t think this is a detriment. This is a factor of a complex story that the writers decided not to dumb down for an audience who might not be well-versed in matters of border drug wars and the corrupt methods law officials sometimes take to take these drug lords down. I’m sure I could watch Sicario two or three more times and figure out something new each time. This is the mark of good writing and good acting.
Let’s see if I can get this right. While on a raid, FBI agents Kate (Emily Blunt) and Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) stumble upon a house whose walls are filled with bodies. Kate is recommended to CIA Special Activities Division undercover officer/Department of Defense adviser Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to find the men responsible, one of whom is cartel hitman Manuel Díaz. They head off to El Paso (watching those scenes gave me a bit of nostalgia from my trips to visit friends in New Mexico – that is 100% what El Paso looks like) and go across the border with Graver’s partner Alejandro Gillick (Benecio del Toro). The Juárez scenes are fairly gruesome, with the team witness to gang and drug-related violence, including a shootout at the border where the team manages to capture Díaz’s brother Guillermo. Gillick gets real on Guillermo, subjecting him to torture in order to get information on his brother and eventually learning of the tunnel used to transport drugs between Mexico and the US.
Now, something I didn’t quite understand is how Kate and Reggie fit into all of this. I get that they were merely pawns so that Gillick and Graver could run their side mission – finding Díaz’s boss for Gillick’s own personal vendetta – but I don’t quite know why. According to wikipedia, this is so that the CIA could run their operation in the US, but why wouldn’t they be able to do that anyway? This is what I mean when I say I’m not entirely certain what happened in this movie. Kudos to the movie for not spoon-feeding it to me, but I truly don’t know if that part of the plot is an accurate representation of the way things operate or merely convenient.
What I did find compelling about this movie was that Kate was written as a completely believable character. She’s not some unbelievable badass, nor is she a timid little girl. She’s written as a person who’s invested in her mission, who wants to see it through to the end, who reacts humanly to violent and disturbing situations, who is at turns scared, brave, determined, righteous, and humbled. It’s still a rarity that we get such multi-dimensional depictions of strong women and Emily Blunt did a fantastic job of bringing her to life. I didn’t truly buy the conclusion to the drug kingpin search – surprisingly, it’s Benecio del Toro’s character that I found to be a bit one-note – but overall it was an engaging and well-acted film that allowed Blunt’s skillful acting to shine.