Training Day in the Land of Wolves

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In Sicario, the DEA—or is it the CIA?—plucks an Arizona FBI agent (Emily Blunt) from her day-to-day work of raiding booby-trapped outposts of the Juárez Cartel, asking her to “advise” on a tersely defined mission, the objective of which is to cut the head off the hydra of the drug trafficking cartel. Escorting her is an insouciant government man (Josh Brolin) who comes wearing flip flops, and a mysterious and mercurial agent (Benicio del Toro) who admonishes, “Nothing will make sense to your American ears, and you will doubt everything we do.” And that’s what one should expect from a Denis Villeneuve film:  mystery wrapped in dread enveloped in shadow. The sweeping aerials of craggy terrain, the gorgeous tangerine sunsets draping our heroes as they proceed into carnage, as well as unconventional directorial choices we won’t spoil, distinguish Villeneuve’s work.  As for the story, however, don’t expect it to blow your mind. Pessimistic and conspiratorial, the usual pontifications on the drug war abound. Meanwhile, much like Ethan Hawke in Training Day, Emily Blunt’s “do things by the book” character navigates absurd terrain where law and order diverge, her protestations falling silent on cynical ears. Although the schematic of Training Day is not so different from that of Sicario, Villeneuve’s film invariably underscores a gloomier thesis; every righteous act of Blunt’s ends up naive, vindicating Brolin and Del Toro’s philosophy, which is untethered from the book. In English & Spanish.

By Alec Julian & Carrie White 

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