My Rating: 4 stars
I was not expecting to like this movie at all. All the reviews I read said that the story was tense and very frustrating. And, those aren’t two things that I like to encounter together. So, I was putting this off until there were absolutely no other movies that I wanted to see playing. I really thought it was going to be an unpleasant experience. So, I was thrilled when I actually ended up really liking the film.
The story follows Kate Macer, a competent, young FBI agent played by Emily Blunt. She’s very good at her job, so it only seems natural that she’d be hand selected to join an interagency task force to go after the big boys in the Mexican drug war. The only problem is that these government guys (lead by Josh Brolin) will not share any damn details with Kate. And, this is where the frustration comes in. They say they want her on their team, but they give her practically no information about the mission. In fact, sometimes they outright lie to her. They don’t tell her what she’s supposed to be doing to help, and they actively stop her when she tries to insist that the team follow strict legal protocol.
It’s not entirely clear why these guys are being so withholding. And, this secret drives the plot forward. I think the best part about how this story is told is that it puts us in Kate’s shoes. We follow her through her day, and see the story through her eyes. That means we only learn new facts at the same pace that she does. No dramatic irony here. We go from confused to upset to disgusted right alongside Kate. It’s a very effective dramatic tool.
At first glance, this story appears to be about Kate and her professional journey in a dangerous line of work. But, it slowly becomes clear that the story really isn’t about her. It’s about the mystery she’s uncovering. Those sound like almost the same thing, but the difference really makes this less of the frustrating slog that I was fearing, and more of a pessimistic examination of the government and politics.
I recommend this movie—especially to people who think it sounds difficult to watch. Because, I had thought the movie was going to be painful, and then it absolutely wasn’t. There is one thing I need to warn you about, though, and that’s the gore. The Mexican drug cartels have always been known for brutally murdering anyone who gets in their way, and then mutilating their corpses to serve as an example. And, we get to see a few examples of this handiwork pretty close up. Thankfully, we see this mutilation after the fact. I’ve never been good with watching torture scenes. But, this violence comes up at various points throughout the story so it’d be hard to avoid seeing it if you were hoping to just close your eyes through those scenes. So, that’s the only caveat I’d like to attach to my recommendation. But, if that kind of thing doesn’t really bother you, then by all means go see this one.