I went to the $3 theater and saw Sicario, an ambitious thriller about the FBI, CIA, and Delta Force battling a Mexican drug cartel on the border. Unlike Spectre, this film was presumably not subsidized by the Mexican government’s tourist agency. The scenes set in Mexico will make you want to vacation instead in, say, Denali National Park.
Sicario is clearly modeled upon the Peak Coen Brothers art-pulp classic No Country for Old Men. The Coens don’t do sequels, so I guess it’s okay for French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve to make a movie that’s very much in the mode of No Country.
Roger Deakins did the cinematography for both movies. Josh Brolin is back from No Country, this time playing a cheerful CIA man. Benicio del Toro (who won an Oscar playing a Mexican policeman in Traffic in 2000) substitutes for Javier Bardem in the Anton Chigurh role of unstoppable killing machine. Bardem and del Toro are two of my favorite movie stars, and del Toro does okay with the concept of a semi-humanized Anton Chigurh, a Terminator with some remnants of a conscience.
Emily Blunt is cast as an FBI agent/waif who slowly figures out that she really doesn’t belong in a workplace full of ruthless men with large guns.
Sicario is maybe 80% as good as No Country, which isn’t bad. The plot even makes more sense than Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country, which is pitched at kind of a scary campfire story level of realism. On the other hand, Sicario doesn’t have the kind of mythic grandeur of No Country. It’s more like Stephen Soderbergh’s 2000 ensemble Mexican drug cartel movie Traffic, an intelligent, well-made film that, for better or worse, doesn’t haunt your nightmares like No Country.