Sicario (2015 film)

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Sicario poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDenis Villeneuve
Written byTaylor Sheridan
Produced by
CinematographyRoger Deakins
Edited byJoe Walker
Music byJóhann Jóhannsson
Distributed byLionsgate
Release date
  • May 19, 2015 (2015-05-19) (Cannes)
  • September 18, 2015 (2015-09-18) (United States)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$84.9 million[3]

Sicario ([si.ˈka.ɾjo], Spanish for "hitman") is a 2015 action thriller film[4][5] directed by Denis Villeneuve, written by Taylor Sheridan and starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin. 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 and del Toro's performances. The film was nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Editing at the 88th Academy Awards. It also earned BAFTA nominations for Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Music.[6][7] Its sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, was released on June 29, 2018. A third film, titled Sicario: Capos is also in development.


In Chandler, Arizona, FBI agents Kate Macer and Reggie Wayne lead a raid on a suspected Sonora Cartel safe house where they discover dozens of decaying corpses and a booby trap which kills two police officers. Following the raid, Kate's boss recommends her for a Department of Justice and Department of Defense joint task force overseen by CIA officer Matt Graver and the secretive Alejandro Gillick. Assured that the task force has been set up to apprehend Sonora Cartel lieutenant Manuel Díaz and to bring to justice those responsible for the safe-house incident, Kate joins the operation.

The team, which includes Delta Force operators, deputy U.S. Marshals and CIA personnel, travel to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to extradite Díaz's brother and henchman, Guillermo Díaz. Kate is left shocked when the team kills cartel hitmen as they return through the US-Mexico border. Back in the U.S., Alejandro learns from torturing Guillermo that the cartel uses a tunnel near Nogales, Sonora to smuggle drugs into the United States. Meanwhile, a disillusioned Kate forces Matt to reveal that the mission is not to apprehend Díaz but to disrupt his drug operations so much he will be summoned back to Mexico by his boss, Fausto Alarcón, the elusive Sonora Cartel drug lord. Matt hopes that by following Díaz, they can bring Alarcón to justice. An unnerved Kate asks her partner, Reggie, to join her for support.

The task force raids a bank used to launder Diaz's money. After finding financial evidence in the bank, Kate and Reggie want to start a legal case against Díaz but are ordered to stand down to avoid jeopardizing Matt's operation. While commiserating at a bar, Reggie introduces Kate to Ted, a local police friend. Kate and Ted go to her apartment, but as they become intimate, Kate realizes Ted is working with the cartel. In the ensuing struggle, Ted begins strangling Kate before Alejandro suddenly appears and subdues him. Alejandro and Matt reveal they used her as bait, knowing the cartel would target her after seeing her face on the bank's CCTV. Alejandro and Matt brutally beat Ted and coerce him into revealing the names of other officers working for Díaz.

After the team learns that Díaz has been recalled to Mexico, they prepare to raid the cartel tunnel near Nogales. Matt reveals to Kate and Reggie that their involvement is just a technical necessity, as the CIA may only legally operate on American soil while working with federal law enforcement. An angry Reggie tells Kate that they should leave, but she insists on joining the raid to learn about the mission's real purpose. As a gunfight with cartel shooters begins, Kate follows Alejandro into Mexico. She sees him abduct Silvio, a Mexican police officer working as one of Díaz's drug mules. Kate tries to arrest Alejandro, but he shoots her in her bulletproof vest before driving away with Silvio at gunpoint. Back on the American side of the border, Kate confronts Matt, who explains the mission is just part of a wider operation to create a single cartel which the U.S. can more easily control. Alejandro, a lawyer turned assassin, who worked for the Medellín Cartel in Colombia, was hired to assassinate Diaz's boss, Alarcón, because he was responsible for ordering the murder of Alejandro's wife and daughter when he was a prosecutor in Ciudad Juarez.

Alejandro kills Silvio after the police officer stops Díaz's vehicle. Alejandro forces Díaz to drive on to Alarcón's estate. He then ruthlessly kills Díaz, Alarcón's guards, Alarcón's wife and two sons, and finally Alarcón.

The next day, Alejandro appears in Kate's apartment and forces her at gunpoint to sign a statement attesting that the entire operation was legal. He then suggests she move to someplace quiet where the rule of law still applies, calling the area "a land of wolves." As he leaves, she aims her pistol at him but cannot bring herself to pull the trigger. Back in Nogales, Silvio's widow watches her son's soccer game, which is briefly interrupted by the sound of distant gunfire.



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.[8] It is the first installment in Sheridan's neo-western trilogy exploring crime on "the modern-day American frontier".[9] Black Label Media financed and co-produced with Thunder Road Pictures.[10] Basil Iwanyk produced the film along with Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill, and Thad Luckinbill.[10]

Emily Blunt became involved with the film in April 2014,[11][12] shortly followed by Benicio del Toro.[12] Jon Bernthal and Josh Brolin joined the film in May, and cinematographer Roger Deakins was also hired.[13][14][15] Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández, and Jeffrey Donovan were then cast,[16][17][18] and Jóhann Jóhannsson was hired to compose the film's musical score in August 2014.[19]

Principal photography began on June 30, 2014, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.[20][21]


Jóhann Jóhannsson was selected to write and compose the score for the film, making Sicario his second collaboration with director Denis Villeneuve. Jóhannsson's work scoring the film 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.


Villeneuve with Josh Brolin, Emily Blunt, and Benicio del Toro at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival premiere of Sicario

In May 2014, Lionsgate acquired the U.S. rights to the film, while Lionsgate International handled the foreign sales.[22] 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.[23] The film had its world premiere at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2015.[24][25] It was then selected to be shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2015.[26][27]

Home media[edit]

Sicario was released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 5, 2016, and on 4K UHD Blu-ray on March 1, 2016.[28]


Box office[edit]

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.[3]

Released alongside The Martian and The Walk, Sicario was projected to make $8–10 million in its wide release opening weekend.[29] 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.[30] In the second weekend the film made $7.6 million, dropping 38% and finishing fifth.[31]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92%, based on 278 reviews, with an average rating of 8.10/10. 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."[32] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 48 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[33] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[30]

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."[34] Dan Jolin from Empire magazine gave the film 5 stars, calling it "a beautifully murky, hard-edged thriller. Quite simply, one of the best films of the year."[35]

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".[36] 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.[37]

Mark Kermode said, "What makes this work is that Emily Blunt is terrific, and Benicio del Toro has this eye-catching appearance as a riddle and an enigma... and that the film is very, very well directed."[38]


Before the film's release, the mayor of Ciudad Juárez, Enrique Serrano Escobar, urged citizens to boycott it,[6] 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.[7]


Among other accolades, the film received three Academy Award nominations, for Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Editing.[39]


Director Denis Villeneuve said the film was indeed conceived at the height of the violence in Juárez in 2010.[6] 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.[40] 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."[40] 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.[40]


Lionsgate commissioned a sequel centering on del Toro's character, subtitled Soldado.[41] The project was overseen by writer Taylor Sheridan.[42] In April 2016, producers Molly Smith and Trent Luckinbill said del Toro and Brolin would return.[43] In June 2016, Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima was hired to direct, with Villeneuve no longer available due to scheduling conflicts.[41][44] Principal photography began on November 8, 2016 in New Mexico.[45] Sicario: Day of the Soldado was released in the United States on June 29, 2018 to generally positive reviews.[46]

A third film, titled Sicario: Capos, was announced prior to the second film,[47] and is currently in development.[48]


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