Sunday, December 20, 2015

Film Review: Sicario (2015)

Copyright: Lionsgate
There’s a lot of justice in the fact that Benicio Del Toro had the opportunity and the privilege of being a part of two seminal films about the War on Drugs, almost exactly 15 years apart. One is Traffic while the other one is Sicario and this review will perceive them both as a single chapter in a bloody and futile endeavor.

Both films are crucial in their presentation of how the US collective subconsciousness is grappling with the issue of drug trafficking in the Americas and the violence it breeds in the ever-widening cracks left by poverty.

In my Sicario review, I have to congratulate the director Denis Villeneuve for continuing his streak of fantastic movies that includes Enemy and Prisoners. As intense as always, Villeneuve in his latest film tells two stories – first covers a driven and honest FBI agent accepting a role in a task force with a semi-secret, semi-legal mission that will include both the US and Mexico territory.

The other one takes place for only a fraction of the film and follows a mysterious adviser to the task force called Alejandro (played by Del Toro) who is seeking for something a lot more personal than a law enforcement victory. With a life filled with unimaginable suffering, felt and caused by him, he is a figure determined to see his goal accomplished, no matter what.

All of this is shot under the beautiful sky of the US-Mexico border region. Villeneuve doesn’t shy away from action sequences, even though the story of the film is so dark and unnerving that Sicario is anything but an action film. As the hunt for a cartel sub-boss descends deeper into the pitch black waters of the War-on-whatever-we’re-making-war-on-currently, so does the FBI agent, played by Emily Blunt, become lost in the violence and depravity of human greed and stupidity.

Del Toro, as a brilliant, hard-working actor that marked many films for two decades, now has a complete body of work that will surely be on the right side of history. While Traffic tried to present the fact that a very ordinary and a very American hunger for narcotics is driving the will of the criminals to sell it (and kill for it), Sicario is placed in a time and place where that idea doesn’t really mean anything anymore.

Now, in 2015, the War on Drugs is exactly that – a real armed conflict fought with special forces, drones, rigged safe-houses, urban US cartel graveyards and seasoned professional killers. Norther Mexico turned into a battleground, which, unlike places in the Middle East, is not grabbing headlines nor shocking the world. Instead, it just festers suffering and mindless confrontations created by the unquenchable thirst for drugs coming from its norther neighbor.

Today, a row of mutilated bodies are strung from a highway bridge in Juarez and it’s just another day. The film ends with sounds of explosions and gunfire erupting in the background of a children’s soccer training in the same city and people only look over their shoulders in a tired fashion. No one runs, no one screams and ducks for cover. There are no police sirens and no TV crews converging on the scene.

The fate of those people is set and there is nothing they can do about it. Now, Sicario tells us, the War on Drugs simply became just a war.