Sicario (2015 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Denis Villeneuve|
|Written by||Taylor Sheridan|
|Music by||Jóhann Jóhannsson|
|Edited by||Joe Walker|
|Box office||$84.9 million|
Sicario ([si.ˈka.ɾjo], which is translated from Spanish into English as "Hitman") is a 2015 American crime action thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve, written by Taylor Sheridan and starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, and Victor Garber. The film follows 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. It began a limited release in the United States on September 18, 2015, followed by a nationwide release on October 2, 2015.
Sicario received praise for its screenplay, direction, musical score, cinematography, and Blunt's and del Toro's performances. The film was nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Editing at the 88th Academy Awards, as well as three BAFTA nominations for Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Music. Mexican viewers criticised the film's depiction of Ciudad Juárez. A sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, was released on June 29, 2018, with Columbia Pictures replacing Lionsgate.
In Chandler, Arizona, FBI agents Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya) lead a raid on a suspected Mexican cartel safehouse, where they discover dozens of hidden decaying corpses and a booby trap that kills two policemen. Following the raid, Kate's boss recommends her for a Department of Justice special joint task force, overseen by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and the secretive Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro), to apprehend the Sonora Cartel lieutenant Manuel Díaz (Bernardo Saracino). Assured that the task force will bring Díaz and those responsible for the safehouse incident to justice, Kate enlists in the operation.
The team travels in force to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to extradite Díaz's brother and henchman Guillermo Díaz (Edgar Arreola). To preempt an ambush, the team kills several Mexican cartel gunmen at the public border checkpoint, shocking Kate. Alejandro tortures Guillermo and learns that the cartel uses a tunnel to smuggle drugs into the U.S.
Reggie and Kate begin to question the task force's illegal and seemingly inexplicable methods. Finally, Matt reveals that the objective is not to apprehend Díaz, as originally suggested, but to disrupt his drug operations to such a degree that Díaz will be summoned back to Mexico by his boss, the elusive Sonora Cartel drug lord Fausto Alarcón. By following Díaz, they plan to bring Alarcón to justice.
To disrupt Díaz's cash flow, the team raids a bank used by his money launderers. Kate and Reggie want to use their findings from the raid to mount a legal case against Díaz, but are ordered to stand down, so as to not jeopardize the operation — much to their frustration. While commiserating at a bar, Reggie introduces Kate to Ted (Jon Bernthal), a friend and Phoenix police officer. Kate and Ted go to her apartment, but as they become passionate, Kate realizes Ted is working with the cartel. In the ensuing struggle, Ted begins strangling Kate, but Alejandro suddenly appears and subdues him. Alejandro and Matt reveal that they used her as bait, knowing the cartel would target her after she foolishly allowed herself to be seen at the bank raid. Alejandro and Matt coerce Ted into revealing the names of other officers working for Díaz.
They soon learn that Díaz is being recalled to Mexico, as they had hoped. Kate questions the good news, pointing out that they have no jurisdiction in Mexico. Matt advises Kate that her and Reggie’s involvement in the operation is simply a technical necessity, as working with U.S. law officers grants the CIA legal auspice to participate in the operation. Angered, Reggie advises that he and Kate leave the task force, but she insists on joining a task force raid on the tunnel to learn more about the operation's true nature. At the Mexican end of the tunnel, Kate witnesses Alejandro kidnapping one of Díaz's drug mules, a corrupt Mexican police officer named Silvio (Maximiliano Hernández). Kate attempts to arrest Alejandro, but he purposely shoots her in the bulletproof vest to incapacitate her, before driving off with Silvio. Realizing that Alejandro is operating illegally with the task force's support, and that there was never any intention of bringing Alarcón and Díaz to justice through legal channels, Kate confronts Matt.
Matt explains that they are attempting to return to a time when a single cartel, Medellín, ran the drug trade. This monopoly gave the U.S. more control. Alejandro, a hitman who worked for Medellín, was brought on to topple the Sonora Cartel by assassinating Alarcón, thus reducing cartel competition. Alejandro's motive is also personal: Alarcón had ordered the murder of Alejandro's wife and daughter back when Alejandro was a prosecutor in Juarez. In Mexico, Alejandro forces Silvio to drive him to Díaz, kills Silvio, and then forces Díaz to continue to Alarcón. Reaching Alarcón's estate, Alejandro kills Díaz, the guards, and the entire Alarcón family, including his wife and two sons.
Alejandro appears in Kate's apartment and forces her, at gunpoint, to sign a statement declaring the operation maintained legal methods. As he leaves, she aims her pistol at him, but cannot bring herself to pull the trigger.
In Nogales, Sonora, Silvio's widow watches her son's soccer game. The game is briefly interrupted by the sound of gunfire, before continuing.
- Emily Blunt as Kate Macer, an FBI agent
- Benicio del Toro as Alejandro Gillick, a former Mexican Prosecutor turned Hitman
- Josh Brolin as Matt Graver, a CIA officer
- Victor Garber as Dave Jennings
- Jon Bernthal as Ted
- Daniel Kaluuya as Reggie Wayne
- Jeffrey Donovan as Steve Forsing
- Raoul Trujillo as Rafael
- Julio Cesar Cedillo as Fausto Alarcón
- Hank Rogerson as Phil Coopers
- Bernardo Saracino as Manuel Díaz
- Maximiliano Hernández as Silvio
In December 2013, it was announced that Denis Villeneuve would direct a Mexican border drama, Sicario ([si.ˈka.ɾjo], the Spanish word for "hitman", from the Sicarii), from a screenplay by Taylor Sheridan. It is the first installment in Sheridan's neo-western trilogy exploring crime on "the modern-day American frontier". Black Label Media financed and co-produced with Thunder Road Pictures. Basil Iwanyk produced the film along with Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill, and Thad Luckinbill.
Emily Blunt became involved with the film in April 2014, shortly followed by Benicio del Toro. Jon Bernthal and Josh Brolin joined the film in May, and cinematographer Roger Deakins was also hired. Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández, and Jeffrey Donovan were then cast, and Jóhann Jóhannsson was hired to compose the film's musical score in August 2014.
Jóhann Jóhannsson was selected to write and compose the score for the movie, making Sicario his second collaboration with director Denis Villeneuve. Jóhannsson's work scoring the movie was highly praised: Sicario was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Score and the Saturn Award for Best Music.
In May 2014, Lionsgate acquired the U.S. rights to the film, while Lionsgate International handled the foreign sales. 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. The film had its world premiere at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2015. It was then selected to be shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2015.
Sicario was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on January 5, 2016, and on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on March 1, 2016.
Sicario was a commercial success, grossing $46.9 million in the United States and Canada and $38 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $84.9 million, against a production budget of $30 million.
Released alongside The Martian and The Walk, Sicario was projected to make $8–10 million in its wide release opening weekend. On its first day, the film grossed $4.3 million. In its opening weekend, it grossed $12.1 million, exceeding expectations, and finished behind The Martian and Hotel Transylvania 2. In the second weekend the film made $7.6 million, dropping 38% and finishing fifth.
On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92%, based on 255 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. 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." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 48 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.
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.||”|
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". Chris Ryan of Grantland compared Sicario with the 1979 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 Walter E. Kurtz and Lieutenant Colonel William Kilgore, respectively, from Apocalypse Now.
Before the film's release, the mayor of Ciudad Juárez, Enrique Serrano Escobar, urged citizens to boycott it, believing the film presented a false and negative image of the city. He said the violence depicted in the film was accurate until about 2010, and that the city had since made progress in restoring peace.
Themes and analysis
This section needs expansion with: thematic analysis from further published reports, as all analysis comes from a single source (ProPublica), as of October 2015. You can help by adding to it. (October 2015)
Director Denis Villeneuve said the film was conceived at the height of the violence in Juárez in 2010. According to Sebastian Rotella, an American foreign correspondent and investigative journalist, Sicario examines many aspects of the U.S. War on Drugs against, most generally, drug cartels in Mexico, Central, and South America. He noted 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." Rotella asserted that progress has been made in Mexico, and expressed qualms over the depiction of the film's extralegal "black ops campaign", relative to his experience that most U.S. operations resulted in the legal arrest and prosecution of drug lords.
Lionsgate commissioned a sequel centering on del Toro's character, subtitled Soldado. The project was overseen by writer Taylor Sheridan. In April 2016, producers Molly Smith and Trent Luckinbill said del Toro and Brolin would return. In June 2016, Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima was hired to direct, with Villeneuve no longer available due to scheduling conflicts. Principal photography began on November 8, 2016 in New Mexico. Sicario: Day of the Soldado was released in the United States on June 29, 2018 to generally positive reviews.
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- Burnett, Victoria (October 11, 2015). "Portrayal of Juárez in 'Sicario' Vexes Residents Trying to Move Past Dark Times". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 4, 2016. 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.
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- Bradshaw, Peter. "Sicario review – Emily Blunt at the sharp end in war on drugs". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
- Ryan, Chris. "Are My Methods Unsound? Why 'Sicario' Is the 'Apocalypse Now' of the Drug War". Grantland.com. Archived from the original on December 14, 2017. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
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- Rotella, Sebastian (2015). "Sicario's Dirty War on Mexican Cartels is Not Yet Reality". ProPublica. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
- Fleming, Mike, Jr. (June 1, 2016). "Gomorra's Stefano Sollima to Helm Benicio Del Toro & Josh Brolin In 'Sicario' Sequel 'Soldado'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
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