Sicario (2015 film)

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Sicario poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDenis Villeneuve
Produced by
Written byTaylor Sheridan
Music byJóhann Jóhannsson
CinematographyRoger Deakins
Edited byJoe Walker
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 American 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.


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, headed by CIA SAC/SOG officer Matt Graver and the secretive Alejandro Gillick, to apprehend Sonora Cartel lieutenant Manuel Díaz. Assured that the task force will bring those responsible for the safe house incident to justice, Kate joins the operation.

The team, which includes Delta Force operators, Deputy US Marshals, and CIA personnel; travels to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, in order to extradite Manuel Díaz's brother and henchman Guillermo Díaz. Returning to the U.S., the team engage in a firefight with cartel gunmen at the border, killing the gunmen while endangering nearby civilians, shocking Kate. Alejandro tortures Guillermo on American soil and learns that the cartel uses a tunnel near Nogales, Sonora to smuggle drugs into the U.S. Reggie and Kate begin to question the task force's illegal methods, forcing Matt to reveal that their objective is not to apprehend Díaz, but to disrupt his drug operations enough to have Diaz 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.

Later, the team raids a bank used by Díaz's money launderers and freezes his accounts. 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 not to jeopardize the operation. Still Kate enters the bank, despite a warning from Matt not to go inside, and questions the manager. Later that evening, Reggie introduces Kate to Ted, a friend and local police officer. Kate invites Ted to her apartment, only to realize he is working with the cartel. Ted tries to strangle Kate, but Alejandro suddenly appears and subdues him. Alejandro and Matt used Kate as bait, knowing the cartel would target her after she foolishly allowed herself to be seen at the bank raid. After Alejandro tortures Ted and Matt threatens to imprison him and hurt his family, Ted reveals the names of other officers also working for Díaz.

The team soon learn that Díaz is being recalled to Mexico, and prepare to raid the tunnel. Matt further verifies that Kate and Reggie's involvement is simply a technical necessity, as operating with U.S. law enforcement grants the CIA legal auspice to operate on American soil. Reggie advises Kate that they leave, but she insists on joining the raid to learn more about the operation's true nature. At the Mexican end of the tunnel, Kate sees Alejandro kidnapping one of Díaz's drug couriers: a corrupt Mexican police officer named Silvio. Kate tries to arrest Alejandro, but he shoots her in her bulletproof vest to incapacitate her, and then drives off with Silvio. Kate then realizes that Alejandro is a CIA assassin operating with the task force to engage and eliminate Alarcón and there was never any plan of bringing Alarcón to justice through legally executed methods.

Kate then angrily confronts Matt, who finally explains that the operation is part of an ultimate plan to eliminate all cartel competition, which will result in only a single cartel that the U.S. will be able to easily control. Alejandro, a former Mexican Federal prosecutor who worked for the Medellín Cartel, was hired to assassinate Alarcón as part of this end goal. Alejandro's motives are also personal, as Alarcón ordered both Alejandro's wife and daughter brutally murdered. In Mexico, Alejandro forces Silvio to drive him to Díaz, kills Silvio, and then forces Díaz to continue driving towards Alarcón. Reaching Alarcón's estate, Alejandro (with the help of the task force's remote surveillance) kills Díaz and the estates guards. Alejandro confronts Alarcón and his family at the dinner table; when Alarcón asks Alejandro not to shoot him in front of his two sons, Alejandro murders both of them and his wife before shooting Alarcón twice, killing him.

The next day, Alejandro appears in Kate's apartment and forces her at gunpoint to sign a statement confirming that the entire operation was legal. 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 272 reviews, with an average rating of 8.07/10. 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][39]


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.[40]


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.[41] 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."[41] 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.[41]


Lionsgate commissioned a sequel centering on del Toro's character, subtitled Soldado.[42] The project was overseen by writer Taylor Sheridan.[43] In April 2016, producers Molly Smith and Trent Luckinbill said del Toro and Brolin would return.[44] In June 2016, Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima was hired to direct, with Villeneuve no longer available due to scheduling conflicts.[42][45] Principal photography began on November 8, 2016 in New Mexico.[46] Sicario: Day of the Soldado was released in the United States on June 29, 2018 to generally positive reviews.[47]


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External links[edit]