After watching Dune, I watched another Denis Villeneuve film, Sicario. Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Jon Bernthal, Victor Garber, and Daniel Kaluuya are featured. Blunt is an FBI agent fighting drug crime on the US-Mexico Border with partner Kaluuya. She is recruited to work for another three-letter government agency but kept in the dark of the true mission. She is apprehensive to work with Brolin and more so when Del Toro’s character meets her on the flight to El Paso.
A lot of this film is inspired by true events around the drug trade between the US and Mexico. These are the places where law enforcement work gets into the gray area very quickly and you must use your sense of right and wrong to make a moral judgment of the tactics being used. Kate Macer, Blunt’s character, is a by-the-book letter of the law agent, or so she thinks. She is desperately trying to take down the drug kingpin Manuel Diaz by chipping away little by little on his US operations. She has the moral support of Reggie Wayne, Kaluuya, to rely on and pulls him into her ethical decision after her first cross-border mission.
Public opinion on law enforcement and US-Mexico relations have changed a lot since 2015. The election of Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s continuing Trump’s policies along the border have drawn both praise and criticism by both sides of the aisle. Police-involved shootings and the justice system not punishing police for breaking laws have become routine. Police dramas are increasingly seen as problematic as they celebrate violations of civil liberties. The opioid epidemic has worsened, partially due to an increased flow of fentanyl across the border. This film does not force a moral judgment on the viewer, but it lays out lots of data points.
Denis Villeneuve is a wonderful director that sometimes overindulges in his artistic shots. In slower-paced films like Dune and Blade Runner, these pauses can feel unnecessary. In Sicario, he uses them to great effect to give you a moment to sit with what just happened on screen. You unconsciously get a moment of rest where you will start to ponder the ethics of the situation you just witnessed. Just as you reach a conclusion you are onto the next scene and new information is thrust into your lap.
This film has solid action sequences that do not shy away from gore. You see the consequences of shooting someone or what a decayed body looks like. You may see good guys and bad guys, but you will see a lot of grays. The pacing of the movie is perfect, and this film does not let you relax. When you decide to watch this film, devote your full attention, which should not be hard, and leave sometime after to sit with your thoughts and reflect. This film should linger in your mind more than the average film.