Wednesday, June 14, 2017
(September 2015, U.S.)
Over the last eight years or so, there have been a series of great films that reflect (or are inspired by) real life political or criminal situations or crisis that have taken place in our 21st Century world following the events of 9-11. These films have included THE HURT LOCKER, ZERO DARK THIRTY, 13 HOURS and SICARIO. The film, in its own way, I suppose, picks up where Steven Soderbergh's 2000 film TRAFFIC left off in its harsh and realistic depiction of the brutal and powerful Mexican drug cartel.
The film begins in Arizona, where a drug raid by the FBI reveals one of the most graphic and grotesque images of dead bodies I've ever seen on the screen; multiple bloodied and decaying corpses wrapped in plastic and hidden behind the walls (geez!)! Not an easy sequence to watch, but this raid sets things up for the heroine of the film, FBI agent Kate Maser (played by Emily Blunt), as she's asked to volunteer for a special joint DOD-CIA task force to apprehend the Sonora Cartel lieutenant Manuel Díaz, the man responsible for the massacre they discovered. As one would predict, Kate not only volunteers, but enters into this team with a naive sense of morality that her superiors simply don't adhere to. Those in charge are determined to bring Díaz, as well as his bosses in the drug cartel; how they do it and the laws they have to break on the Mexican side of the border are of no concern to them. Kate will be lied to, deceived, and kept in the dark about her true purpose with them until she inevitably discovers it all for herself.
The question one finds themselves asking while watching SICARIO is just who are the good guys in this film and how much do we believe in or agree with what they're doing. Kate is virtuous and honest, and perhaps that just makes her plain stupid in a world of government men who know nothing of such values in the field of war. The men she follows and observes are indecent men in an indecent time of drugs and murder. One must ask themselves if all moralities are forced out the window when dealing with Mexican animals who seems to take pleasure in not only killing their victims, but hanging their decapitated bodies out for display for all citizens to see. Our enemy across the border is pure evil, and it would seem that one must become evil (even just a little bit) to combat greater evil. Good or bad, right or wrong, you decide for yourself.
Kate Maser not only forces herself to cling to her values, but even tries (in vain) to understand the motives of the unscrupulous men she works with, including Alejandro Gillick (played by Benicio del Toro), a brutal hitman who also specializes in torture tactics in an effort for the greater good, as well as avenging the murder of his wife and daughter by Díaz's boss, Fausto Alarcón, whom he succeeds in killing at the film's climax, along with his wife and two sons as they dine outdoors. In the end, the film's mission is accomplished, but Mexico's brutality and violence still looms in the air over the lives of the innocent.
Personally, I've never had any interest in visiting Mexico. Too many movies displaying its violence and corruption, I suppose, whether that's fair or not. SICARIO certainly doesn't help the country's cause, especially when it's accompanied by some of the most menacing music I've ever heard in a motion picture soundtrack. Despite being a tale of fiction, it's based on too much negative press we've become accustom to when hearing about the country south of the border and its ongoing drug war. Mexican citizens were urged to boycott the film upon its release, believing that it represented a negative and false image of its cities. Whether we as Americans believe such a statement is up to each of us. As lovers of film, we can, at best, appreciate a taut, hard-edged thriller like SICARIO for its outstanding performances by all involved, particularly Benicio del Toro, who practically lurks in the shadows of the action throughout most of the story until it's time for him to strike in a form of violence and vengeance that not only leaves the viewer shaken, but perhaps just even just a little grateful that such a hard-hitting man exists to try and rid the world of just a little of the evil that occupies it.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Alejandro Gillick (after shooting Kate in her bullet-proof vest): "Don't ever point a weapon at me again!"