“An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.” – IMDB
Starring: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro.
Directed: Denis Villeneuve
This film has a really strong opening, and maintains this level of intensity throughout. I was really gripped the whole way through. It’s dark and brutal, and full of corruption and murky politics. It’s also quite confronting and moving in places, without being sensationalist or glorifying.
If you don’t know already, Juarez in Mexico is one of the worlds most dangerous cities, across the border from one of the safest cities in the world, in Texas. It’s where over 500 women have gone missing never to be seen again, with more disappearing every day. The images in this film are bleak, brutal. It’s the sheltered North of America trying to deal with the incomprehension of the violence of South of the border.
We open with an introduction to a young kidnapping specialist, Kate (Emily Blunt), busting into a house in Arizona with a SWAT team, and revealing the gruesome work of a killing house run by a Mexican crime ring. It’s pretty horrific, and some of her team are accidentally killed, which is the reason why Kate agrees to join up with a special division designed to combat this crime ring in Mexico. But once she volunteers, she finds nothing is exactly as it seems.
With her are Matt (Josh Brolin), a CIA operative heading up the task force to infiltrate and capture the leaders of the Mexican cartel and hopefully break up the drug trade that they run. His blaze dress code and attitude belie the seriousness and seniority of the man. With him is Alejandro, (Benicio Del Toro) who is cagey about who exactly has sent him, though he appears to hail from Columbia, which makes Kate question his position within the team. However, he is more accessible to her than Matt, who is flippant with her at best. These three central performances are very powerful, and there are times when you’re not sure who to like, or why you like someone who is clearly operating outside the confines of legality or moral righteousness.
Which is what is at the films core. When you’re trying to fight the worst that humanity is capable of, do you become corrupted in the fight? What are the moral rights and wrongs involved? You find yourself asking, along with Kate, what is really going on and how much we really know about what is really going on. You also start to ask yourself if you agree with Kate’s by-the-book methods or Matt’s more effective, less legal ones.
In that sense, it’s a scary film. It’s dark, sad, deep and well worth watching.