I don’t speak Spanish so good but I think “sicario” might mean “invitation.” Yeah, that’s got to be it because the movie Sicario is an invitation to explore the beauty of Arizona. It says, “Come to the land of beautiful desert landscapes and warm, welcoming people who may or may not be drug mules and/or potential dead bodies in an impossible war with Mexican drug cartels.” ¡ Mucho gusto Arizona!
Sicario is told mostly from the perspective of FBI agent Kate, played by Emily Blunt. After discovering a literal house of a thousand corpses in beautifully rustic Arizona, Kate is asked to participate in a joint task force to take down the Mexican drug cartels believed to be responsible. Like Kate, we the audience are left in the dark for pretty much the entire movie.
Watching Sicario is slightly backwards experience in comparison to most movies. There is very little exposition at the start to explain anything. In the middle of the movie I was getting concerned that I missed critical information because I had more questions than answers. Why did they want Kate? What are they trying to do? Why are they doing it this way? I was starting to think the movie was just a confusing mess or that I wasn’t paying close enough attention.
Wrong. The Sicario knew exactly what it was doing. Every question I had was answered and answered perfectly. The movie is all about build up. Build up questions. Build up tension. Build up stakes. Build up some more questions. You are sharing Kate’s experience of really not knowing anything until you know everything.
That’s not to say the movie is 100% build up until the very end. You get a little bit of pay off throughout the movie to keep you invested. It’s just enough to want to follow the next trail that opens up but not enough to fully quench your curiosity. I think it’s important to start watching Sicario with the expectation that most of the cards aren’t played until the very end.
In addition to having back-loaded exposition, Sicario back-loads the characters. You don’t get to really learn about character motivations until the very end of the movie. That was an incredibly gutsy decision by the filmmakers but it works. Not heavily defining Kate’s character allows the view to immerse themselves into the world of Sicario. Not knowing the motivations of all the different characters ratchets up the intensity throughout the movie because we don’t fully know what to expect at each new turn.
Sicario is an intense movie that sticks in your mind. It’s the kind of movie you wake up the next morning thinking about. It’s not your typical good-guy-bad-guy Hollywood movie. I’m actually not sure if there are good guys in Sicario and I’m not exactly sure if there were bad guys either. It’s just a movie about doing whatever you think needs to be done in order to survive. That goes for the Americans, for the Mexicans and for you the viewer.