FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) has quickly risen through the ranks of a predominantly male profession. Now she has received a top assignment by a mysterious government official Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) of assisting a task force for the purpose of combating the escalating war on drugs. Her team, led by an equally mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), primarily travels back-and-forth across the U.S.-Mexico border while using one cartel boss (Bernardo Saracino) to get to a bigger one (Julio Cesar Cedillo).
If I had one word to describe this film, it would be intense. It definitely doesn’t sugarcoat things. Their part of the world affected by the drug war that it is attempting to depict is very bleak and filled with despair and it approaches this in a very real way. The cinematography is very good here with its use of lighting and shadows and its utilization of the terrain and setting that the world acts as another character in the film as it becomes its own living entity. I thought the music was just as powerful as the cinematography as it matched the tone including the cliche ramping up during the more intense moments and perhaps may have taken it too far at times. The film also did get a little violent at times but when viewed in the context of the film’s subject matter, is not gratuitous. I thought the film started off a little slowly but it does have its intense moments that were full of action which were well done where the realism is the most evident but I just wish that there could have been more because when nothing was happening, I will admit to being a little bored. What bored me was not the performances but rather the story as I was not completely sure what was going on in the story until roughly halfway through. I liked it when I got it because that was when I thought Del Toro’s Alejandro took over. I found his performance started off as very restrained and intense with his serious gaze and few word answers and then developed over time as his motives and intentions become clear. I’m not really sure how to describe it but he just took control of every scene he was in, almost like Johnny Depp did in Black Mass. Blunt was good as her performance consisted mostly of looks and emotions and her character was used as a vehicle guiding us through the film’s not-exactly-black-and-white world. I don’t really think she stood out because I think her character could have been played by someone else and it would have been just as good. Brolin was okay serving as kind of a comic relief and then as with Del Toro’s character, who started off a little less mysterious and opened up a little. The difference between the characters is that his motives were never fully explored. Overall, I thought this was a pretty exciting, well made, film but I think the story lagged slightly behind.