Kate (Blunt) is a FBI agent used to kick down doors and catch bad guys for the good of all American people. She follows the rules but, on a rescue operation, she stumbles on something that it’s beyond understanding: dozens of dead bodies ensconced inside the walls of a house. It belongs to a major player in the drug traffic between US and Mexico and it has the additional perk of backyard shed booby-trapped with explosive that kills two policemen. Spurred by righteous indignation, Kate joins an inter-agency task force led by Matt (Brolin), soi-disant consultant for the Department of Defense, who will show her how the war on drugs is really fought. Mat is helped by Alejandro (Del Toro), another “consultant” of the US government, who is enigmatic, apparently all-knowing and rather shady, also not American. The viewer goes along with Kate on this grim ride, discovering facts and getting information as she does, slowly realising that she stepped into a very dangerous world where police work is substituted by covert military operations and rules and boundaries are very different from what she knows and believes in. Villeneuve seems to have a knack for making films that keep you engaged and uncomfortable at the same time. The foreboding mood of the story, the constant feeling that something is not right is difficult to shake off even for the jaded, cynical viewer, all thanks to Villeneuve’s ability in combining excellent performances with a good script and expert cinematography. Brolin and Blunt sell very well their respective characters but Del Toro is the one that truly shines! I did miss him in a role he could sink his teeth in and give us something remarkable. The other interesting aspect of this film is the fact that doesn’t really give an answer to the questions it raises on the “war” on drugs, it just depicts the situation in all its stark, disheartening reality, reminding me of a very illuminating exchange in an episode of The Wire:
Carver: You can’t even call this shit a war.
Hauk: Why not?
Carver: Wars end.