When you are watching a film or a TV show in which the main character is FBI or CIA, you are watching propaganda.
But some propaganda reaches a height of artfulness which cannot be denied.
Such propaganda, then, in some respects becomes its opposite.
Sicario is one such brilliant enigma.
The main visual motif of this film is Emily Blunt sweating.
That may sound like a rather unglamorous device, but it too has crossed over into its opposite.
Emily Blunt gives a performance which approaches perfection.
But she is not alone.
Benicio del Toro is icy. Frosty, as they say. Timeless.
What is the template for Sicario?
You might be surprised, but it reveals itself quite early on to be none other than The Silence of the Lambs.
You must see Sicario to understand this parallel.
Nothing in the previews intimates this definite relationship.
But what else do we get?
Torture is good.
This is where Josh Brolin comes in.
His previous turn as the title character in W. is essential to the code of Sicario.
I must credit director Denis Villeneuve.
For propaganda, this gets in some pretty stellar body shots at the expense of the CIA.
But it is all for show.
The message is that terrorism works.
It only depends which side of the battle you’re on.
Brolin’s character is a “DoD advisor”. [More on that in the film.]
Get the straggler to come back to the hive.
We’ve heard that trope for a long while.
Regardless, Brolin is the quintessential consequentialist.
The end justifies the means.
Emily Blunt is the conscience. And as that she is magnificent.
But propaganda needs a hero (or heroine) to knock down.
Perhaps you remember the disheartening ending of 1984?
It is quite correct that whenever America declares a “war on” something, the smartest thing is to consider failure a foregone conclusion.
Here we have that old chestnut the “War on Drugs”.
There have been several other lackluster “War on(s)”.
The main offender is the War “on” Terror.
But director Villeneuve gives away the secret a little bit (as the best propaganda does).
From Medellín to Mena, Arkansas.
Maybe Phoenix is no accident either.
Remember Ken Williams?
Sicario shows the FBI getting royally fucked.
In game theory, we might call them (full-on “meta-“) good cop.
The whipping boys…the ostensible sack of shit which acts as a catch-all flypaper of blame…are our bad cops: CIA.
It is, however, significant that Brolin operates under the aegis of “DoD advisor” insofar as the US military then becomes the butt (ass end) of flipped propaganda.
To wit, much of this film is code…not for the drug war, but for the geopolitical ransacking of the past 15 years.
It is a comment.
Not particularly clever.
But perhaps accurate.
That methods have bled over (no pun) from the hinterlands to the “homeland”.
My final caveat is this:
Sicario is an absolute masterpiece.