Land of Wolves

Today’s topic: the darkness of Sicario. What an experience, sitting in an empty theater, gazing at the pulse pounding images of the recent arrival, Denis Villeneuve’s new thriller – Sicario. Villeneuve is by definition a master of depicting ominous, claustrophobic atmospheres with acclaimed previous efforts like Incendies, Enemy and the 2013 hit, Prisoners. To say that Sicario is the best movie of  the year is an understatement. It’s a film, so dark, so powerful that it will stay on as one of the finest directorial efforts, ever. But, I’m not here to make a review out of it. It’s not my job. What I intend to do, without spoiling too much, is try to go in deep and analyse the impenetrable darkness of this exquisite thriller.

Sheep can sometimes turn into wolves.
Sheep can sometimes turn into wolves.

Kate Macer (a brilliant Emily Blunt), one of the few female FBI agents in Arizona receives a top assignment and  joins a task force for the escalating war against drugs led by  government official Matt Graver (a knockout Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Colombian, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro giving his best performance in years). The plot is all an excuse for an in-depth study of humanity and morality in today’s world: a world devastated every single minute by relentless wars. That’s why you can watch this film without the sound on and still be punched in the gut. It’s not about dialogue, it’s about images. Images flaring in front of your eyes. The task force is sent out to Juárez, possibly the most dangerous place on earth. A hornet’s nest. A sewer filled with all the earth’s rotting scum. A pit where lambs are thrown for sacrifice. A city so deeply buried in crime and violence that everyone’s already given up. No one’s fighting the real problem. Kate is optimistic. She thinks she’s out there to try and do some good for her colleagues, her friends, her nation. It’s not about that. “Welcome to Juárez” says Alejandro in a very peaceful manner while they drive by a police crime scene: mutilated corpses hanging naked from a bridge.

It is what it is. It’s no fantasy. Things happen all the time. Yet, since most of us live far, far away from all the “evil countries” we think we’re safe. We’re not. Kate’s drug war is not the same war politicians fight in Washington. It’s not about rules, treaties, agreements. It’s not about shaking hands and smiling to the camera. It’s not about giving out environmental speeches. That’s a different story. What Kate’s fighting is personal. There is no class to what happens in the border cities. There are no speeches. There are no photographers. It’s personal. It’s eye for an eye, tooth for tooth. It’s about getting so dirty, so filthy that no matter what you’ll do with your life in the future, you will always carry the past with you. The past will always be the haunting present. There’s no way to cut off the links. The connections will always stay. Blood will always be blood.

A shower won't wash away what Kate has just witnessed.
A shower won’t wash away what Kate has just witnessed.

Kate starts smoking, and she continues digging deeper and deeper into what seems to be a never ending pit. The never ending river of mysteries. She discovers things she shouldn’t have dared even to look at. A police officer tries to shoot her. That’s what it all comes to. There are no limits. Values don’t mean a thing. There is no government, there are no laws. Laws don’t apply to ganglands. Laws don’t apply to this world. At a certain point in the film, all of a sudden we switch perspectives. From Kate we move on to Del Toro’s Alejandro. A man of few words. He’s someone they call in when there is an interrogation. He’s ruthless. No mercy for anyone. When he asks questions, you better give it to him. Because he’ll ask again, in a very painful way. And never point a gun at him. You don’t to bite Alejandro because he’s got more teeth than you. He’s had a dark past that we only discover at the very end. He’s got reasons to be who he is, and do what he does. No one objects. Alejandro acts, because he has to. And now a fundamental question, which you’ll probably ask yourself: does he fight for the right side or the wrong one? Well, neither. There is no line. If there ever was one it was crossed a long time ago. By the wrong people. Now, even the right ones don’t know the difference anymore.

The man in the suit, Alejandro.
The man in the suit, Alejandro.

Even the veterans like Alejandro or Graver have lost sight of the real objective. Maybe there was one, once upon a time when people still believed in honor and justice. In a war for the common good. Not anymore. Now everyone’s covered in mud. Soldiers, officers of the law, special agents, all shoot to shoot. They shoot to kill. Kill because they’re angry, because they saw their colleagues blown to pieces by a booby trap, because they saw their mothers in a pool of blood, because they saw their homes burning, because they forgot where it all started. One of the last, mind-blowing action sequences takes place in a tunnel. Shots are fired, people are killed. But the main thing that I caught from that scene is the tunnel itself. The tunnel that for the most part of the task force operatives is nothing scary. It’s nothing new. They’ve seen worse. They go in, shoot to kill, throw in a grenade, come out smiling. But for newcomers, like Kate, there is a whole different side to it. You go in and come out a whole different person, a beast. A beast with claws and blood thirsty teeth. You lose yourself and you become something else. You step on the wrong mystery, the wrong case, and you face consequences. Consequences that will trouble you forever. Sicario means hitman. Anybody can kill for money. Anybody can hit the bottom.

Because that’s what Sicario, in my opinion, is about: a world that is considered an underworld but in fact, is much larger than what we all imagine. It’s a world that once you step inside of it, there is no coming back. You can’t spin around and leave. You stay there, screaming, but nobody can hear you. Even if you scream at the top of your lungs. Nobody can hear.

Because that’s what darkness is. The land of wolves.

Take a breath. The storm is coming.
Take a breath. The storm is coming.

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