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Movie Review: Sicario
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Adam Frazier   |  @   |  
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Sicario, starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin

Sicario
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Screenwriter: Taylor Sheridan
Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Julio Cedillo
Lionsgate
Rated R | 121 Minutes
Release Date: October 2, 2015

“There is only dark, my friend.” – Alejandro

In the turbulent area between the Mexico-U.S. border, idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by a big-shot government liaison (Josh Brolin) to join an elite task for and disrupt the powerful Juárez Cartel.

Led by a Colombian operative known only as Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), the team sets out on a covert black-ops mission that forces Kate to break the rules in her pursuit of justice.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Incendies), Sicario is a searing crime-thriller about consequentialism; about choices. Do the ends justify the means? If we do immoral things to achieve a virtuous goal, can we still call ourselves the good guys? Or are our hearts darkened beyond repair?

As the leader of a kidnap-response team, Kate’s entire law enforcement career has been about doing things by the book. After years of barely scratching the surface, she’s tempted by the opportunity to make a real difference, even if it means blurring the line between what’s legal and what’s right.

Dark and disturbing as it may be, Sicario is a beautiful film. After collaborating on 2013’s Prisoners, director of photography Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men, Skyfall) and production designer Patrice Vermette reunite with Villeneuve to portray the bleakness of the borderlands with gritty authenticity.

Unrelenting in its intensity, staggering in its artistry, Sicario is a nerve-shattering experience from the very first frame. In the film’s opening sequence — a SWAT raid on a drug den — Kate and her partner (Daniel Kaluuya) stumble upon a horrific scene: dozens upon dozens of dead bodies, buried standing up, hidden behind the walls of the house. This shocking and deeply unsettling discovery illustrates how ruthless and sadistic the cartel can be, and why they must be stopped by any means necessary.

I’m left rattled about this film; it’s been a week and I’m still thinking about it. Sicario‘s ethical questions fascinate (and disturb) me. Unlike those big-budget superhero blockbusters we flock to every summer, the heroes in Villeneuve’s film have blood on their hands. They’re tasked with making the kind of difficult moral decisions that must be made when confronted by evil.

Speaking of superheroes, is it merely coincidence that Villenueve has cast his film with an Avengers-level roster of Marvel Cinematic Universe actors? Jon Bernthal (Daredevil), Maximiliano Hernandez (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Josh Brolin (Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron), Benicio Del Toro (Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy) — throw in the fact that Emily Blunt is being considered for Captain Marvel and you’ve got a darker, grittier superhero team-up than even Zack Snyder could dream up.

Narratively speaking, the film’s third act stumbles before sticking its disheartening finish, but quibbles with the plot are quashed by the complex and engaging characters Villeneuve and the cast have created. A taut, tightly wound thriller with stellar performances and the unbeatable team of Villeneuve and Deakins, Sicario is must-see moviemaking.

Trailer

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