The 'Sicario' Movies Are Very Strange But Excellent Pieces of Work

Benicio Del Toro in 'Sicaro'
Benicio Del Toro in 'Sicaro' /

There are two Sicario movies: Sicario and Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Both films feature Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin as the main characters. The first also has Emily Blunt. They are, in fact, very good movies, but they are also very strange.

Del Toro, as always, is the real star of the movies. He absolutely kills his role as a hitman whose sole purpose in life is to wreak havoc upon the cartel of Carlos Reyes. The soundtracks for both movies are downright phenomenal. Brolin is steady as he often is. Blunt played a great foil to their two characters in the first. The plots are relatively simple with enough twists to keep viewers engaged, but not so many it gets confusing. The Mexican landscape movie shots have been well overdone by this part of the 21st century, but directors Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) and Stefano Sollima (Day of the Soldado) bring unique perspectives and avoid any cinematic tropes for films primarily set in the desert.

You get the point. They're really good stories and films. But I say they're strange because it's hard to discern exactly what message the directors are trying to send.

Usually, in a movie, the themes are pretty straightforward. The small and big things a director chooses to show serve as means to the end they want the viewer to understand. The overarching plot of the Sicario movies seems easy enough to understand: cartels are bad, and the brutality they employ is returned in kind by those who are trying to stop them.

But it's far more complex than that. Even if I can't discern specifically why, it simply has to be. Directed by a French Canadian and an Italian, they aren't rah-rah respect the troops movies, nor are they xenophobic messages about the dangers the border brings. Brolin is supposed to be the gloves-off CIA tough guy who stoops to whatever level he has to in order to get things done, but the end of the second movie suggests he's more than that. Similarly, Del Toro's character is more than just a vengeful former cartel member. He wouldn't have cared about Blunt in the first movie the way he did if that was the case.

The big theme in the movies seems to be darkness, which is both simple and complicated. It's simple in that they demonstrate just how evil life can be, but complicated in that the perpetrators of that evil are not comic book villains. This darkness permeates every part of the characters' lives. Del Toro has lived in that darkness for years by the time we first meet him. Same with Brolin. Blunt only barely survived her first dip into that world and couldn't do it again. The little girl Del Toro is tasked with protecting in the second film is traumatized by it.

But in good movies, there are layers upon layers of meaning. You need to watch these several times to even begin to understand the depth of what the directors are going for. I've seen both twice and still don't really get it. The point of all this? Go watch the damn movies. They're brutal and stunning and will leave you wondering what the hell you just watched. Just like most great movies do.