Sicario (2015 film)

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File:Sicario poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Produced by
  • Basil Iwanyk
  • Thad Luckinbill
  • Trent Luckinbill
  • Edward McDonnell
  • Molly Smith
Written by Taylor Sheridan
Music by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Edited by Joe Walker
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release dates
  • May 19, 2015 (2015-05-19) (Cannes)
  • September 18, 2015 (2015-09-18) (United States)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
Country United States
  • English
  • Spanish
Budget $30 million[2]
Box office $84 million[3]

Sicario is a 2015 American crime-thriller drama film directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin. Written by Taylor Sheridan, the film is about a principled FBI agent who is enlisted by a government task force to bring down the leader of a powerful and brutal Mexican drug cartel. Sicario was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Distributed by Lionsgate, the film began a limited release in the United States on September 18, 2015, prior to a nationwide release on October 2, 2015.

The film received three Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Editing. It was also criticized in Mexico for the negative depiction of the city of Juarez, where part of the plot takes place.[4][5]


During an FBI SWAT raid of a hideout occupied by suspected Mexican drug cartel kidnappers in Chandler, Arizona, Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), her partner Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya), and their team discover dozens of corpses. While the team investigates, a booby trap detonates, killing two officers. In the aftermath, Kate's boss, Dave Jennings (Victor Garber), recommends her for a task force assembled by the Department of Defense and CIA agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to implicate those responsible, including Sonora Cartel lieutenant Manuel Díaz (Bernardo P. Saracino).

On the plane to El Paso, Texas, Kate meets Matt's enigmatic partner, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro). Joined by U.S. Marshals and a team of Delta Force operatives, they embark on an operation in Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, to extradite one of Diaz's top men: his brother Guillermo (Edgar Arreola). While crossing back into the United States over the Bridge of the Americas, cartel members make a rescue attempt on Guillermo, only to be swiftly killed by the escort team. They return to El Paso, where Matt and Alejandro torture Guillermo and learn of a tunnel used by Díaz to ferry drugs into the U.S.

At a Border Patrol station in Arizona, Alejandro questions a group of Mexican illegal immigrants for information. Reggie and Kate confront Alejandro and Matt for more details about their mission; it is revealed that their objective is to disrupt Díaz's drug operations so that he will be called back to Mexico and lead the team to his boss: Sonora Cartel drug lord Fausto Alarcón (Julio Cedillo). The team finds the tunnel and at a bank used by Díaz's money launderers, Kate gathers records and tells Jennings that they constitute probable cause but Jennings sides with the officials who outrank him and overrule her.

At a bar, Reggie introduces Kate to Ted, a friend and local Arizona cop. While preparing to have sex at her apartment, Kate discovers a rubber wristband in Ted's possession — the same type used to bundle Díaz's laundered money. Ted tries to strangle her, sensing she knows he is corrupt. She is saved by Alejandro, who has kept a close eye on her since the bank incident, knowing the cartel would send someone after her. Alejandro and Matt threaten the lives of Ted and his family, forcing him to reveal the names of other corrupt local cops working for Díaz.

The next morning, Matt and his team prepare to follow Díaz, who has finally been called back to Alarcón. Kate protests that the FBI has no jurisdiction in Mexico and she and Reggie are dismissed, having been on the team solely to give the CIA legal permission to operate within U.S. borders. Kate insists on remaining. The team's raid on the tunnel allows Alejandro to sneak through to the Mexican side; once there, he kidnaps one of Díaz's mules, a corrupt Mexican police officer named Silvio (Maximiliano Hernández). Kate follows and attempts to arrest Alejandro, who shoots her in her bulletproof vest and tells her to go back and then forces Silvio to pursue Díaz in his police car. Kate demands answers from Matt, who explains that their ultimate goal is to strengthen U.S. enforcement over the drug trade by restoring the Medellín Cartel as a sole power; Alejandro had been hired to assassinate Alarcón and also wants revenge for his murdered wife and daughter.

Alejandro, with Silvio driving and remote help from the CIA, stops Díaz's Mercedes, after which Alejandro kills Silvio and captures Díaz. Alejandro is then driven by Díaz to Alarcón's estate, where he kills Díaz and Alarcón's guards. He then kills Alarcón's family in front of him before killing him last. The next morning, Alejandro sneaks into Kate's apartment and orders her to sign a waiver stating that the entire operation was legitimate. Kate refuses but relents after Alejandro holds her at gunpoint. After he leaves, Kate goes to her balcony, points her gun at him and hesitates. He turns around but then continues to walk when she does not shoot.


Themes and analysis

According to the director Denis Villeneuve, the movie was conceived at the height of the violence in Juárez in 2010.[4] According to Sebastian Rotella, Sicario examined many aspects of the war on drugs engaged by the United States against, most generally, drug cartels in Mexico, and Central, and South America.[11] Taking a perspective as an American,[clarification needed] he notes that the illegal drug trafficking situation in Mexico has remained largely stagnant in the two decades prior to the film's release, and that the film asserts that the American War on Drugs is "turning us into the very monsters we are trying to defeat."[11] Rotella asserts that progress has been made in Mexico, and expresses qualms over the depiction of the movie's "black ops campaign", relative to his experience that most U.S. operations resulted in the arrest and prosecution of drug lords.[11]


In December 2013, it was announced that Denis Villeneuve would direct a Mexican border drama, Sicario[citation needed] (the Spanish word for 'hitman'), as scripted by Taylor Sheridan.[12] Black Label Media financed and co-produced with Thunder Road Pictures.[13] Basil Iwanyk produced the film along with Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill, and Thad Luckinbill.[13]

Emily Blunt became involved with the film in April 2014,[14][better source needed][6] shortly followed by Benicio del Toro.[6] Jon Bernthal and Josh Brolin joined the film in May, and cinematographer Roger Deakins was also hired.[15][7][16] Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández, and Jeffrey Donovan were then cast,[8][9][10] and Jóhann Jóhannsson was hired to compose the music for the film in August 2014.[17]

Principal photography began on June 30, 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.[18][19]


In May 2014, Lionsgate acquired the U.S. rights to the film, while Lionsgate International will handle the foreign sales.[20] On February 23, 2015, Lionsgate set the film for a limited release in the United States on September 18, 2015 and a wide release on October 2, 2015.[21] The film had its world premiere at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2015.[22][23] It was then selected to be shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2015.[24][25]


Box office

Sicario grossed $46.9 million in North America and $33.7 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $80.6 million, against a budget of $30 million.[3]

In the opening weekend of its wide release, the film was projected to earn $8–10 million.[citation needed] On its first day, it grossed $4.3 million, coming in third behind The Martian and Hotel Transylvania 2. In its opening weekend, it grossed $12.1 million, exceeding expectations, finishing behind The Martian and Hotel Transylvania 2.[26]

Critical response

Sicario has been acclaimed by critics and the performances of Blunt and del Toro were praised.[27] On the review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93%, based on 222 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Led by outstanding work from Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro, Sicario is a taut, tightly wound thriller with much more on its mind than attention-getting set pieces."[28] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[29] On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[26]

Richard Roeper gave the film an A, calling it one of the year's best, and applauded del Toro's performance, saying, "...then there's del Toro, who lurks about the fringes of the action for most of the story, and then springs into action in a handful of scenes in a variety of ways that will leave you shaken—and grateful to have seen such beautifully dark work."[30] Likewise, Dan Jolin from Empire gave the film 5 stars, calling it "a beautifully murky, hard-edged thriller. Quite simply, one of the best films of the year."[31]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praised the acting of Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin. He stated that although her character Kate Macer was implausible, Emily Blunt "brazens out any possible absurdity with great acting focus and front".[32] Chris Ryan of Grantland compared Sicario to the film Apocalypse Now directed by Francis Ford Coppola, noting an analogy between the former's themes with respect to the Mexican drug war and the latter's with respect to the Vietnam war. He also stated that the characters Alejandro Gillick and Matt Graver in Sicario resemble those of Colonel Kurtz and William Kilgore, respectively in Apocalypse Now.[33]


Boycott campaign in Mexico

The current mayor of Juarez, Enrique Serrano Escobar, harshly criticized the film and started a boycott campaign against it in Mexico after being informed of the plot prior to the official release date in the country. According to the mayor, the movie apparently shows extreme over-the-top violence "as an every day thing" and "a very negative image of the city that is false and not up to current events". The mayor conceded that "the violence depicted in the film was accurate for the year 2010, when the annual intentional homicide rate reached an all time high, but after strong security measures were implemented the city became much more safer and its current state is not as dangerous -nor as decadent- as the film suggests".[4][5]


Among other accolades, the film received three Academy Award nominations—for Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Editing.[34]


Lionsgate has commissioned a sequel, centering on del Toro's character. The project is being overseen by writer Taylor Sheridan with Villeneuve also involved.[35] In April 2016, producers Molly Smith and Trent Luckinbill confirmed that Blunt, del Toro and Brolin would return.[36][37][38]

See also

References and notes

  1. "Sicario (15)". British Board of Film Classification. July 27, 2015. Retrieved July 28, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Denis Villeneuve returns to morality's shifting line with 'Sicario". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 11, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Sicario (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 18, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Portrayal of Juárez in 'Sicario' Vexes Residents Trying to Move Past Dark Times". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2016. The turnaround for Juárez began in 2012 and has been significant. Kidnappings have plummeted — officially there have been none in 20 months — and the murder rate has fallen from as many as eight a day during the worst times in 2010 to 20 to 30 per month now.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Nájar, Alberto (October 7, 2015). "Why the Film "Sicario" Angers Juarez City so Much?" (in Spanish). BBC. BBC News Online. Retrieved May 23, 2016.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Kroll, Justin (April 4, 2014). "Benicio del Toro Teams Up with Emily Blunt in 'Sicario'". Variety. Retrieved July 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Fleming Jr, Mike (May 30, 2014). "Josh Brolin Joins 'Sicario'". Retrieved July 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 Siegel, Tatiana. "'Skins' Star Daniel Kaluuya to Co-Star in Denis Villenueve's 'Sicario'". The Hollywood Reporter (June 6, 2014). Retrieved July 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 Yamato, Jen (June 24, 2014). "'Sicario' Adds 'Captain America 2′s Maximiliano Hernandez". Retrieved July 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Yamato, Jen (July 21, 2014). "Jeffrey Donovan Joins 'Sicario'". Retrieved July 23, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Rotella, Sebastian. "Sicario's Dirty War on Mexican Cartels is Not Yet Reality". ProPublica. Retrieved October 30, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Travers, Peter (September 17, 2015). "Sicario Movie Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 28, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 Fleming Jr, Mike (December 6, 2013). "'Prisoners' Helmer Eyeing Tense Mexican Border Crime Drama 'Sicario' For Black Label". Retrieved July 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Kroll, Justin (April 2, 2014). "Emily Blunt to Star in 'Prisoners' Director's Next Pic 'Sicario'". Variety. Retrieved July 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Ford, Rebecca (May 29, 2014). "'Walking Dead' Star Jon Bernthal Joins Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Raup, Jordan (May 23, 2014). "Roger Deakins to Reteam With the Coens and Denis Villeneuve This Year". Retrieved July 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Jóhann Jóhannsson to Score Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario'". August 27, 2014. Retrieved August 31, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Mayfield, Dan (June 18, 2014). "'Sicario' starts filming in ABQ at end of June". Retrieved July 5, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "On the Set for 6/30/14: Point Break Starts, Kevin James Wraps Up PPaul Blart: Mall Cop 2". Insider. June 30, 2014. Retrieved July 5, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. McClintock, Pamela (May 6, 2014). "Cannes: Lionsgate Snaps Up U.S. Rights to 'Sicario'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "'Sicario' Gets Fall Release Date; Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin Star". February 23, 2015. Retrieved February 24, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "SICARIO". Festival de Cannes.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Screenings Guide". Festival de Cannes. May 6, 2015. Retrieved May 8, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Toronto to open with 'Demolition'; world premieres for 'Trumbo', 'The Program'". July 28, 2015. Retrieved July 28, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Special Presentations: Sicario". Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on October 2, 2015. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. 26.0 26.1 "'The Martian' Defies 'Gravity' On Friday; 'Everest' & 'The Walk' Largely Earthbound".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Watch: Pulse-Pounding 'Sicario' Featurette Digs Into the Mexican Drug Trade". September 28, 2015. Retrieved October 18, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Sicario (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 3, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "Sicario reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 7, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Roeper, Richard (September 21, 2015). "'Sicario': The dark reality of the war on drugs". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "Empire's Sicario Review". Retrieved September 15, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Bradshaw, Peter. "Sicario review – Emily Blunt at the sharp end in war on drugs". the Guardian. Retrieved October 30, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Ryan, Chris. "Are My Methods Unsound? Why 'Sicario' Is the 'Apocalypse Now' of the Drug War". Grantland. Retrieved October 30, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "Oscar Nominations: The Complete List". The Hollywood Reporter. January 14, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Lang, Brent (September 21, 2015). "'Sicario' Sequel in the Works at Lionsgate". Variety. Retrieved October 12, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. Jaugernauth, Kevin (April 1, 2016). "Producers Say Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro And Josh Brolin Will Return For 'Sicario 2'". Retrieved April 1, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. Siegel, Tatiana (March 31, 2016). "Demolition' Producers Talk Indie Film Strategy, 'Sicario 2' Plans and Move to TV". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 1, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. "Top 5 Reasons to be Hyped for Sicario 2". Retrieved April 1, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links