There’s always at least one movie that didn’t make it to the Oscars, when as you look at it briefly, you wonder why. It certainly got nominated for a few, and indeed got nominated across many societies, but has very few wins to show for its work. So, is it because it isn’t as good as the hype promised? Time to take a look.
Emily Blunt plays the FBI Agent Katie, who is enlisted in helping to crack down on the drug Cartels in Mexico, and in particular the gang responsible for the horrific scenes we witness in the beginning of the movie. She very quickly discovers that the team chosen don’t share her levels of precision and rule-abiding, instead watching from the sidelines as they casually deal with the incredibly dangerous situations facing them. The decent into the rabbit hole leads her to witness that those fighting against the Cartel, can become just as ruthless as their enemy. And there is nothing she can do to stop it.
Let’s start with those themes, because they are very strongly depicted in the film, and stand out as the highlight moments. The opening sequence is truly horrifying, just smashes you in the gut taking away all of your air as you gaze in disgust at the screen. There are no filters to screen the audience from the illustrations of the realities in Mexico over the past decade. It immediately syringes a dark and ominous tone into the story. The sparse and minimal soundtrack works to only amplify this effect, the primary piece is one designed to set your nerves on edge. And it works very effectively at doing that.
The main arc in the story is getting to the truth, finding out why things are as they are and how the pieces fit together. It is an intriguing trip since for much of it, your main character Katie analogues the feelings of the audience. She is our avatar in the chaos and danger. Emily Blunt throws in a really good performance, very motivated while at the same time, way in over her head. Her partner Reggie (Daniel Kuluuya) is an actor I haven’t seen before, but showed some very good potential. Sadly his appearances are limited. Benicio del Tor gives a nice delivery of a very shaded and dark partner of the Mission Chief. It isn’t until later on that his layers start to really show and he gets some of the shock scenes.
The directing and camera work is excellent, with some great tracking shots as well as letting the actors hold together the scenes of drama. There’s not much in the way of fireworks going on, but this is to the benefit of the movie as a whole. This wasn’t designed to be a non-stop action piece – it was designed to rattle your nerves. Along with that but working to assist, the kills are unceremoniously brutal and unglorified. The team takes out people with an unsettling level of efficiency even on a busy highway. I’ve seen plenty of war films, but that sequence made me uncomfortable in exactly the way the movie wanted to.
However, something has been bugging me over the past few days since the viewing. There was a problem, but I couldn’t place my finger on it. Now though, I have an answer. The ending, in the grand scheme of the film, was a let-down. You get this idea that the goal is to uncover the truth, but by the end, you’ve barely even scratched the surface. I am not saying the choice of the ending was the issue, but we never get to see how widespread what was going on went to, who was profiting, and where was the smoking gun. Maybe the movie wanted you to discuss those questions by yourself, but what we really needed was a link between this, and what really happens in Mexico. I feel like I need to se a documentary after this, I feel…. unsatisfied.
It is a shame that it has to go this way, “Sicario” had some very good elements in the mix, a fully capable cast and great female lead, and a totally gritty, dark atmosphere that I feared and loved at the same time. But I can kind of see now why it got a buffet of nominations, but only a saucer-worth of wins. It is very good, but doesn’t quite make the cut.
Still, there are some winners that probably shouldn’t have gotten the nod, and their decision isn’t a line in the sand in terms of definity. So give it a view, and see what you think. Just be sure you’re up to take on the dark plot and tone, this is no happy ending.
Thanks for reading!