When drug violence worsens on the US-Mexico border, the FBI sends an idealistic agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) on a mission to eradicate a drug cartel responsible for a bomb that had killed members of her team during a raid. Kate, however, find herself an outsider to the the members of the team and out of the know about what is really happening.
Denis Villeneuve has proven himself to be a highly accomplished director, in Incendies he stunned us with a highly shocking revelation, in Prisoners he crafted a dark thriller and in Enemy he helmed a complex, paranoid thriller. In Sicario, Villeneuve rises above a somewhat average script and masterminds an exciting yet dark and brutal thriller about America's war on drugs. Sicario is very much in similar mould to Dark Zero Thirty, one of the finest political thrillers of recent times, with its thermal version and infrared cinematography which added a high level of tension to one of film's most intense and suspenseful raids. It's a very brutal film that suggests that the drugs trade is simply a circle of never ending violence, killing one drug lord will only inspire another to take this place. Even though the film never suggests it, perhaps legalising/decriminalising drugs is the only way to end the war.
The film keeps the central character in the dark, this in turn keeps the viewer in the dark. Emily Blunt's vulnerable performance never makes the central female character a weak one, but one that finds herself stressed as she seemingly becomes unable to control or effect anything that occurs around her. This has been occasionally used a criticism of the film, but the fact that Kate has zero control over the events around her is the entire point of the story and that's what engages the audience with the character.
Emily Blunt's performance is excellent, her feelings of uselessness and being utterly powerless is well exemplified as she finds the situation of being totally in the unknown a stressful and emotionally frustrating one. Supporting Blunt is a magnificent Del Toro who delivers a superb performance that is so loaded with suspicion that it's impossible not suspect that something is off with his character and be wary of what his true aims and motivations are. Blunt is great but Del Toro is so good that he steals the show in every scene that he is in.
Once again Roger Deakins acts as Villeneuve's cinematographer and with his hand the film looks visually incredible, particularly the scene where the men raiding a drugs tunnel are silhouetted against the rising sun. The film is incredibly tense during is most intense sequences because of Deakins' cinematography and Villeneuve's direction which makes it clear that everything is a potential threat. Additionally, Johann Johannsson's soundtrack also adds great to the tension to the situation, particularly in an early scene where the convoy of cars driving through one of Mexico's toughest cities.