"Is there anything I should know?"
"You're asking how a watch works. For now, just keep your eyes on the time".
The only piece of misdirection in the movie is in the interstitials. "Sicario" is described as a hitman. The first way, however, it is described is as a zealot who killed Romans who were invaders in the Middle East. Whilst, the feeling is that information is being denied; what actually happens is that anytime a question is asked it gets answered quite clearly. It's the context that leads to confusion. Obviously, an FBI officer will assume that jurisdiction of the law applies, when she is standing in the United States. I was going to describe it as an increasingly complacent attitude, as the film goes on. Yet, what else would she believe? Her confidence in the absolute primacy of her enforcement powers is entirely to be expected. So that detail, that she is dealing with hitmen in the sense of traditional policing, when she is actually dealing with fanatics, should not slip by so easily. Again, every assumption one would naturally make about the situation leads one to have faith beyond reason in the solidity of the law. Which reminds me of Cape Fear where one man tears and rends the fabric of normal society to get at a man and his family. Justice in its usual small town guise dissolves in front of his assault. Kate represents a walking, talking set of assumptions, which, in this case don't apply. It would most easily be expressed that she wouldn't be so sure, if she was transplanted magically to Iraq, would she? She wouldn't have so much of a problem with the tactics employed either. So whilst she sees order under threat, the zealots only see foreign invaders. Hence, the confusion.
It's fascinating that the US can, in some places, look like England, and in others, look like a jungle, and in others look like Egypt. This film is engrossed in the beauty of the desert, and it returns to stare at the landscape, for thematic reasons as well as cinematic ones. The desert doesn't stop at the border and it rolls on into the heart of America. Perhaps, an outside view that it seems to stab upwards, but the desert seems ancient and alien, from my perspective. Sand and dust implying time passing and settling like a weight, as if the green is buried under it. New housing developments are built over the desert, like another invasion. A crash of concrete and asphalt into the sun blasted brown. The modern and the ancient struggling together. How quickly that war sweeps away law. Thinking of the law as a recent affectation of society is uncomfortable, to the extent that it is unscionable.
When hitmen are referred to, the thought is brushed away. Kate says "I nearly screwed my hitman" and its explained that this isn't what was happening. Even misconceptions about the purpose of killers in this environment is clarified. The director understands that the message will leave people coming to incorrect conclusions, buried so deep in the viewer's psyche, even as he shakes that belief by showing us cops, who are beyond being corrupt and standing back to allow crime, but actual participants in trafficking and murder. Good family men. Both sides of the border. A film about crossing borders; showing high metal fences, but also showing that you can walk into Mexico. A comment on the laughability of building walls in that place? More a symbolic gesture. A metaphor for safety rather than real security. Migrants moving back and forward across this impenetrable barrier, as if on a day trip.
War is a very ancient form, which quickly rises to fanaticism. War becomes personal very fast. Civilisation breaks down even further. The law melts away. Kate represents an archetype. Alejandro saves her once, which makes it difficult to kill her when he needs to later. She needs killing. What appears ominous at the end, and a final personal humiliation for her, is really her last chance to save herself from the inevitable. Hard to watch her standing up for a principle, which has been destroyed so thoroughly. She looks into the face of a true zealot and trembles in fear. Rightly.