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The “War on Drugs” is very real and is a daily ongoing battle within our borders and even across them. As it is with any war, this one is not without casualties. The difference is that you won’t find this on the front page of the daily newspaper, nor will it often be the lead story on the news. That, however, doesn’t make it any less deadly. Drug cartels have been operating on US soil for many years and there are no signs that it’s going to change any time soon. Those who fight to keep our borders intact face overwhelming odds on a day-to-day basis because it’s practically impossible to properly police every entry point into the United States. What happens when vigilance within the law isn’t enough? Sicario is a two hour spectacle that illustrates just how dire the current situation is.
Director Denis Villeneuve, probably most notably known for Prisoners (2013), brings the same dark edgy feel to his latest feature. Sicario tells the story a law enforcement team that is operating on both sides of the border in the hopes of gaining ground against their vicious opposition, the drug cartels. FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) joins a task force led by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) who has one singular goal in mind, stop these dangerous cartels from operating on this side of the fence. Matt’s main right hand man is simply known as Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). Alejandro’s purpose, and allegiance for that matter, is somewhat of an unknown but is slowly revealed as the movie progresses. The task force sees the rules as mere suggestions or loose guidelines whereas Kate is a “by the book” procedural person. This contrast acts as a friction point throughout the events that follow.
It’s said that opposites attract, and between Kate’s and Matt’s views on how to go about things, they are definitely on polar opposite ends. Part of the appeal to Sicario is that there are no definitive lines between good or bad and right or wrong. Denis Villeneuve once again shows audiences that desperate times can sometimes call for desperate measures. Nothing about this crime drama is conventional other than the fact that the drugs are coming in from Mexico with a trail of violence in its wake. Kate’s moral compass is in constant spin mode as she struggles with the idea of winning at all costs. Matt on the other hand, seems to bring a sense of levity to these dangerous situations that takes some time to become accustomed to.
In addition to the “big three” actors, there are a couple of others worth mentioning that might be familiar if a fan of good television shows. Victor Garber (Alias), Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) and Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) all have smaller, yet key roles in Sicario. British actor Daniel Kaluuya plays FBI agent Reggie Wayne (no, not the former Indianapolis Colts standout wide receiver) who has Kate’s back throughout the movie. He is the one person that she can completely trust through thick and thin. The casting and acting performances are major pluses when it comes to the believability of what is seen on the screen. Every character has that authentic feel which in turn, raises the enjoyment factor.
Sicario does not come across as a shoot ‘em up Chuck Norris one man against the world kind of action flick. This one is right up there with End of Watch (2012), Savages (2012) and Traffic (2000). Both feet are firmly attached the ground so do not expect to see someone standing on the wing of a jet shooting the bad guys off of a roof top 1,000 yards away. What you will witness is the terrifying truth behind what goes on around us every single day as well as the stakes that are involved. And no matter whether you’re Team Kate or you’re Team Matt, you will come to appreciate what lengths are gone to and what sacrifices are made in the hopes of keeping us safe. Sicario is enjoyable, engaging and tense look at the bad business side of drugs. With a compelling and relevant storyline, your money would be well spent investing in a ticket.

Sicario is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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