WHAT'S THE OPPOSITE of evaporate? Whatever it is, that's what Sicario does. When so many movies and TV shows disappear from memory as soon as you're finished watching, Sicario lingers. It clots.

In short, Denis Villeneuve's new drug thriller is phenomenal. Its story is both personal and political, a scathing portrait of the drug war, as well as an elemental allegory in which moral dilemmas are depicted by characters crashing violently into each other. The performances are terrific across the board. Emily Blunt's federal agent is strong, steely, and seduced by danger, a trait that puts her in some very bad situations. Benicio Del Toro might be even better, playing a mysterious agent who's helping a US task force take down the leader of a Mexican drug cartel. His preferred method of making an informant talk? A wet willy.

Kate Macer (Blunt) is enlisted to this task force after her team finds dozens of corpses stashed in a suburban Arizona house, during what's supposed to be a typical raid. Eager to find the people responsible, she soon discovers that the task force—headed by a sleepy-eyed, flip-flop-sporting Josh Brolin—is secretive about its ultimate endgame, and the methods it uses are unorthodox, to say the least.

The first third of Sicario is dominated by a tour de force sequence that follows the task force across the border into Juárez. It's an incredible piece of sustained filmmaking, all nerves and threats of blood lurking in the corner of every frame. Cinematographer Roger Deakins' chalky, sun-bleached colors depict an unforgiving landscape, as Jóhann Jóhannsson's nail-biting score ratchets up the suspense.

The rest of Sicario is just as good, but to give away anything more about its tightly coiled plot would be unfair. Just know that Sicario is one of the smartest, most suspenseful movies you're likely to see. Good luck trying to shake it.