If you were thinking of spending your next vacation in sunny Mexico, this picture will probably cause you to change your plans.
Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) is an FBI agent. She and her team barge into a residential home in Chandler, Arizona, in an attempt to rescue a kidnap victim. What they unexpectedly stumble upon, however, are over 40 mutilated bodies, apparently victims of a Mexican drug cartel war. Kate is moved by the gory scene and agrees to volunteer for a mixed-agency task force whose purpose is to try to bring the men responsible for the massacre to justice. Also on the team are Matt (Josh Brolin), who is in charge of the mission, and Alejandro (Benicio Tel Toro), a mysterious drug cartel expert.
The film is very violent, with scenes of mutilated bodies, multiple shootings, and torture, so it is not for the squeamish. (These scenes, however, are masterfully done and are not gratuitous.)
The movie has a leisurely pace between the violent episodes, but this only serves to ratchet up the suspense, which is considerable throughout most of the film.
The female Director (Denis Villeneuve) does a fine job getting excellent performances from the ensemble cast. Del Toro is fantastic and deserves an AW nomination, going from compassionate to cold blooded killer in the blink of an eye. Pressure was placed on Villeneuve to have Blunt’s part become a male role to increase box office revenues, but she held her ground, which I think was for the best.
The Director of Photography (Roger Deakins) also deserves props. There is one scene when the team goes into a cartel drug tunnel, which shows the view from night vision goggles, which was even better than a similar scene in “Zero Dark Thirty.”
If you can handle the violence, this is a top 20 film.