Emily Blunt has proven to be a versatile actress in the past few years. She’s proven she can do comedy, action and even musicals. Even though the new release, “Sicario,” didn’t look like my cup of tea, Blunt’s pull was enough to make me go.
Blunt stars as FBI agent Kate Macer. She’s fighting the war on drugs, but what she and the good guys are doing can’t really be considered winning. No matter how hard she fights, there is a flow of drugs coming across the southern border of the U.S. that will not slow down or stop. Her hard work and dedication lead to her being recruited into an elite task force, led by DOD advisor Matt Graver (Josh Brolin).
The process is sketchy, and Kate asks question after question, none of which are answered. Her uneasiness grows when she meets Matt’s partner, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). He’s quiet, perceptive and a man you’re certain is capable of dark, dark deeds.
It’s on a shady mission to Juarez, Mexico, that everything goes south for Kate. The mission is not routine, nor is it above board. The task force is made up of a select group of individuals willing to strike a blow to drug cartels using whatever means necessary.
The task force is full of macho, macho men. They’re big, strong and abrasive. And they cross lines that Kate doesn’t want to cross.
And, Blunt is amazing in this movie. She and Del Toro both give strong performances. Del Toro’s is understated but chilling. His lines are minimal but his presence in the film is enormous. And then there’s Blunt. As Kate, we explore so many facets of her personality. There’s anger, confusion, sheer terror and even some moments of levity, although those are brief.
She’s a no-nonsense character. Her partner, Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) teases her about the fact she doesn’t put much effort into her appearance. Her wardrobe is simple yet effective. Jeans and plain T-shirts. Even her bra is a topic of conversation when Reggie tells her she needs something sexy, maybe a bit of lace. Instead, Kate wears plain and simple. It’s just another piece of gear that helps her get her job done, the same as a Kevlar vest.
I pondered at times that even though Kate is set up as a tough woman in a field heavily dominated by men her sex is still shown as a bit of a weakness at times.
There’s the bra conversation. I’m fairly certain guys don’t go around chastising each other for their choice of undergarments. Kate also has to be rescued after she’s overpowered and nearly killed in a hand-to-hand with a man, only to be rescued by another man. She’s physically dominated by the men in the task force, as one bumps her out of his way in passing. She fights to get answers from Alejandro and Matt but is ignored every time. Reggie, who is fairly new to the FBI, won’t back down, though, and the duo get the answers she’s been seeking.
It’s a bold choice to make this character a woman. The film needed someone naive and idealistic to show exactly how far both sides are willing to go to win the drug war. The cartels are vicious. They mutilate bodies and leave them for all to see as examples of what happens if you cross them. But this task force has no rules, no boundaries. As Kate’s boss (played by another actor I love Victor Garber) tells her, “the boundary has moved.”
“Sicario” is violent, intense and bloody, but it needs that type of character to balance it all out. It needs someone who shines in a film filled with characters who have gone so far down the rabbit hole that their redemption is likely not possible. But at the same time, the film takes liberties and uses Kate’s sex to its (dis)advantage.
“Sicario” isn’t light or fluffy. One look at the trailer will show you that. It’s a taut thriller that will have you biting your nails or, like me, gripping your companion’s hand tightly as scenes unfold. The film gets crazy intense and as its final credits roll, you’ll feel a little bit like you’ve been punched in the gut.
Despite its issues with characterization — which is probably just my own take on it — it’s a beautifully crafted film. The cinematography is masterfully done.
“Sicario” is well-acted and intense. And, it makes you think.
After all, the line is blurred between the good guys and the bad guys. Some characters tell us that you have to get your hands dirty in order to clean up this messy world around us. Others question that perspective.
How far is too far?
Take a walk on the wild side — and test your own boundaries.