Sicario: Gritty and compelling, but unfinished

Emily Blunt has certainly come a long way from her The Devil Wears Prada days. The British actress has been flexing her muscles in the action and adventure genre for a few years now, even tackling science fiction in 2014 film Edge of Tomorrow. It’s a leap that Blunt should be praised, not criticised for. Few actresses can stretch their talents across such a range of genres and characters without being ridiculed, but Blunt appears measured and in control in every role she accepts.

Still, even for advocates of the actress, Sicario makes for tough viewing and Blunt is almost unrecognisable as FBI agent Kate Macer, who is brought on board to help with a major Mexican drug bust. It’s a hard-hitting piece of cinema but one that you can’t tear your eyes from.

Tough enough without confusion

The film’s plot was easy enough to follow, which is always a plus. Too many films these days seem to rely on overly complex plots and hidden messages to make them successful, but this usually only works for people who have the time to trawl through Internet forums for answers. There were still plenty of surprises and moments of sheer suspense that had me peering at the screen from behind my fingers. Blunt, as Macer, is caught up in a world of violence, death and secrecy that is so shocking that people in the cinema were grimacing, yet there was a reality to the story too that made its twists and turns so exciting. The FBI is real, Mexico is real, drugs are real and therefore the action-packed and intense events of the movie could be real. Any script that is able to convince an audience of its authenticity is set to be a success.

An all-cast masterpiece

The cinematography on this film was simply stunning, if gruesome. Aerial images of the desert border between the USA and Mexico seemed to symbolise the scale of this war on drugs, being fought without many of us knowing. No punches were spared with regards to shooting Mexico as it would have seemed to a real Kate Macer – bodies stripped and hanging naked from freeway bridges, unwanted animals, poor children, death simply everywhere in a society overrun by crime.

To her credit, Blunt carried the movie by being the most humane character in its midst. Her reactions were real and understandable against the cold, commanding nature of Benicio del Toro as Alejandro and Josh Brolin as Matt. Seeing the events through her eyes made them far more tangible than if this had just been a buddy-style action film.

Nevertheless, Blunt also blended into the cast. With no romance plot or personal crisis to follow, she was memorable by name, not necessarily by role. In comparison, it was del Toro’s character, Alejandro, who had the most difficult storyline to swallow. The audience were both on-board with his personal vengeance but also aghast to think that the FBI would put their trust, money and men into someone so rogue and so dangerous.

No answers, no future

The movie was a thrilling ride but one that came to no conclusion. Alejandro gets what he wants but isn’t brought to justice himself. Any suggestion of a connection between him and Macer is quickly disbanded at the end – an unsatisfying feeling for most cinemagoers who would have liked to see both characters share some kind of intimacy. As such, it almost felt like a documentary, not a story; simply one slice of a much longer saga.

Sicario is in cinemas now. Let us know what you thought!