Sicario is basically about heavily militarized, inter-agency U.S. forces hunting down and shooting it out with the Mexican drug-cartel bad guys, and at other times flying here and there in a private jet and driving around in a parade of big black SUVs and so on….zzzzzz. It’s a strong welcome-to-hell piece, I’ll give it that, but Sicario doesn’t come close to the multi-layered, piled-on impact of Steven Soderbergh‘s Traffic, portions of which dealt with more or less the same realm.

“The tale, such as it is, is told from the perspective of Emily Blunt‘s FBI field agent, who, being a 21st Century woman who’s in touch with her emotions, is of course stunned and devastated by the unrelenting carnage blah blah. You know what I’d like to see just once? A female FBI agent who isn’t in touch with her emotions, or at least one who tones it down when it comes to showing them. Too much to ask for, right?

“One of her battle-hardened colleagues, a senior veteran with a semi-casual ‘whatever works, bring it on’ attitude, is played by the ever-reliable Josh Brolin. My favorite character by far was Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro, a shadowy Mexican operative with burning eyes and his own kind of existential attitude about things. Benicio the sly serpent…the shaman with the drooping eyelids…the slurring, purring, south-of-the-border vibe guy.

“Blunt’s partner is played by Daniel Kaluuya, and I’m telling you here and now and forever I didn’t understand a single phrase from this guy. It was like he was speaking Farsi. Seriously, dub his ass for the U.S. release.

“I knew for certain that a lot of what was happening on-screen — the super-grisly violence, the despairing godforsaken atmosphere — wasn’t that interesting or logical even, and that Villeneuve seemed more interested in nightmare vibes than compelling specifics. Villeneuve has called Sicario, which was written by Taylor Sheridan, ‘a very dark film, a dark poem, quite violent…it’s about the alienation of the cycles of violence, how at one point we are in those spirals of violence and ask ourselves ‘Is there a solution?’ My movie raises the question, but it doesn’t give any answer.’

Variety‘s Scott Foundas has described Sicario as ‘a more jaundiced riposte to Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 Traffic’ — a film that I understood every word of when I saw it in Los Angeles screening rooms, by the way — ‘may prove too grim and grisly for some audiences and too morally ambiguous for others.’ You think so, Scott?” — from my 5.19 review, filed from the Cannes Film Festival.