I’m going to warn you right up front that I discuss enough of the plot details that you may find them a bit of a spoiler. I’ve tried to keep out a LOT, but even so, my intent is to talk about ways that this film let me down, despite its being (overall) an excellent film otherwise. So, you’ve been officially warned. Okay? 🙂
This film has received its share of acclaim from critics who are (apparently) somewhat forgiving of its flaws.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie. However, there were a few little things that
made me nuts didn’t seem quite right.
Here’s the plot:
We open on a view of
crappy-looking humble homes in Chandler, Arizona. A group of stealthy FBI agents converge upon one crap home in particular. Then, an urban assault vehicle rams down the front wall. (I’m assuming they had a no-knock warrant.)
During a sweep and clear of the house, shots are exchanged. They blow a hole in one wall. Turns out two decayed corpses are behind it, which stink so bad, our protagonist and other agents
puke their guts up retch. Then, we see that there are bloody, dead bodies decaying behind what looks like nearly every fricking wall in the house. Okay. So, why did no one smell them? Allow me to repeat: there are decaying bodies behind ALL. THE. WALLS. I mean, this is Arizona and even though the bodies are neatly wrapped in plastic, if the cops retched from fumes exuding from a hole in the wall, wouldn’t the whole house stink to high heaven? I don’t think either the plastic or the crappy walls are non-permeable, either.
Then, our protagonist, the honest and upright (if slightly dim) Kate Macer (played fantastically by the uber-talented Emily Blunt, as well as the part would allow) is told (after a big pow-wow of men within a glass-enclosed conference room) that she can choose to take a special assignment to get the bad guys who set up an explosive device on the property full of dead people. Oh, that’s another thing. The FBI agents (like idiots) didn’t think to check for booby traps. And someone gets blown to smithereens.
So, the assignment. Yes, Kate can choose to take it, but she must volunteer for it—it cannot be officially assigned. Okay. Something smells. And it ain’t just the Casa de Corpses.
Kate and her (diversity-friendly) partner, Reggie Wayne (played by the talented Daniel Kaluuya) sign on for the mission with a guy wearing flip flops (played scruffily by Josh Brolin). They (or actually, just Kate—the black man is excluded—again!) are supposed to go to El Paso, Texas, but end up taking what appears to be a rock star’s Lear Jet off to Shitsville, Mexico. And Benicio del Torro (who plays ambiguous Hispanic Man Alejandro Gillick) is with them. And no one will explain anything to poor
, stupid Kate. But it becomes obvious fairly quickly that this isn’t a normal mission.
So, after a particularly hairy incident near the border involving the guys Kate is hanging out with doing crazy, gun-toting antics in the middle of a traffic jam full of mostly-innocent civilians trying to get the hell out of Mexico (possibly trying to leave Shitsville, as well), plus the obligatory round-up of migrants into groups housed in a hangar-like structure, so they can be … detained for whatever reason, Kate and Reggie threaten to walk. And, um, good luck with that!
Here’s another question: when you hear the word “Medellin”, what do you think of? Well, if you’re of a certain age or have any knowledge of history, the word that should come to mind would be “cartel”. But Kate actually asks at one point about it, after a few characters utter “Medellin” to each other, in hushed tones suggesting it’s a secret password. And, I’m like, seriously? I’m not with the FBI and even I know about the Medellin Cartel! (This is what happens when you get all your news from Facebook and BuzzFeed. 🙂 )
Oh, and after a big bust at a bank, Kate simply must go inside to get some records, even though Flip Flops warns her quite firmly not to do that. But she ignores him, because (by God) she wants this collar! And she wants it now and legally. Apparently, Kate’s forgotten about these things banks have called surveillance cameras. When you add in a corrupt cop or two, this tends to lead to trouble.
Okay, finally—and this is a minor spoiler (unless I’ve already spoiled this movie, in which case, sorry—I warned you)—when all is said and done (almost), Kate says (at the top of her voice), “I’m telling everyone what happened here.” This is truly not the brightest thing to say when surrounded by large groups of gun-toting
mercenaries agents who aren’t in your corner. Kate apparently is too young to remember never saw Three Days of the Condor.
Despite all that, I actually like this movie. I found it suspenseful and realistic in its depiction of the cost (morally and otherwise) of the War on Drugs. The plot has numerous twists, superb dialogue, fantastic cinematography and effects, plus morally ambiguous characters up the wazoo. It also has Emily Blunt (who’s awesome, even if her character’s a dimwit) and Benicio del Torro (who’s just awesome).
For what it’s worth, Kate’s saving grace as a character is her honesty and integrity, right up to the end. And that’s about it.
Warning: there are very brief scenes of graphic nudity (mutilated bodies hanging from an overpass) in Shitsville, Mexico. Plus surplua amounts of slum dwellings, corruption, and naiveté.
Sicario tackles tough issues without flinching. It’s taut, edge-of-your-seat storytelling. So, despite my feelings about Kate’s character, I think it deserves four very strong stars.