At the beginning of the film we are told, "In Mexico, Sicario means Hitman." It can describe one person or it can describe the theme, but its inexactness lends itself well to the relation to the viewer.
Sicario is the "Heat" of the Desert
Music - Sicario Review
Sicario starts out with a tense and ominous beating drum and deep, low string hit more befitting of a horror film than a realism-based thriller. The score by Jóhann Jóhannsson sets the tone throughout, and by the time the first scene is complete the expectations of the viewer has risen.
Cinematography - Sicario Review
The cinematography of Sicario captures the industrial desert setting beautifully, reminding me of the way Michael Mann's films, Heat and Collateral, capture Los Angeles. The music and the cinematography combine to tell a story that is much more complicated thematically than in plot. It's these elements that make Sicario stand out among superhero films that dominate the genre.
Performance - Sicario Review
One of the things that Sicario does very well within its simple, but effective plot is that the main character, played by Emily Blunt, is just as in the dark to what the operation of her new found colleagues, played by James Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, are up to as the viewer is. It's not so much a mystery, as to what the end-game is. Because of this, who is a "bad guy" is in no way cut and dry. It's as much a commentary on the murderous cartels as it is on the American war on drugs and in the end, it can seem ambiguous, because the climax and the conclusion can only be seen as a stop-gap. It's not necessarily making a point, if anything it's the inevitable failure of the fight, however, Sicario does ask questions about the measure of success and the best ways for which success should be achieved.
Sicario's One Bullet, One Kill Policy
Because of the phenomenal musical score and the alluring cinematography the set pieces are given incredible weight. It'd be hard to describe the action as frenetic, because frankly they are quite the contrary. It's the buildup that makes these scenes so grand. There are such tense buildups followed by a short, to-the-point action sequence that it feels like anything longer would have been a disappointment. The most gripping scenes aren't the one in which bullets are flying everywhere, but the ones in which you don't know when or if bullets will be flying everywhere. This works to great effect, as the "heroes" should always have an advantage and technique due to their professional nature in these scenes.
Plot - Sicario Review
Sicario's Human Aspect
It doesn't all work in Sicario. There is a side story that attempts at lending a human, sympathetic face to the antagonists that mostly serves as a piece to prove "they aren't all bad." Unfortunately it doesn't do it's job as literally every other adversary is a faceless, nameless character only identifiable by their skin color and tattoos all while holding a gun. What it does convey is that life south of the border sucks if you're part of, or caught in the middle of this war. It's just not a big enough story to make you care. It would have been much more effective if the motivations or stipulations were made clear for this character, then their role would have felt bigger and ultimately made the viewer question even moreso; "who is the bad guy?"
Sicario Review Reflection
It seems that Sicario has gone rather overlooked in terms of the box office, but has been recognized by the Academy with three Oscar nominations including Best Cinematography, Best Original Score and Best Sound Editing. These are reasons enough to see this film, but the underlying themes and the action make up for any of the shortcomings this film has.