Sicario (2015 film)

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Sicario poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Produced by
Written by Taylor Sheridan
Music by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Edited by Joe Walker
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release date
  • May 19, 2015 (2015-05-19) (Cannes)
  • September 18, 2015 (2015-09-18) (United States)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million[2]
Box office $84.9 million[3]

Sicario ([si.ˈka.ɾjo], "Hitman") is a 2015 American crime thriller film 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 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. The film received criticism by viewers in Mexico for its depiction of Ciudad Juárez.[4][5] A sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, began shooting in November 2016 and was released on June 29, 2018.


In Chandler, Arizona, FBI Critical Incident Response Group Agents Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya) lead a raid on a suspected Mexican cartel safehouse, where they discover dozens of 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), to apprehend the Sonora Cartel lieutenant Manuel Díaz (Bernardo Saracino).

On a private jet to El Paso, Texas, Kate meets Matt's partner, the secretive Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro). Joined by U.S. Marshals, DEA agents and a U.S. Army Delta Force unit, the team travels in force to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to extradite Guillermo Diaz (Edgar Arreola), one of Díaz's top men and his brother. At the border crossing, the team preempts an ambush by swiftly killing many Mexican cartel gunmen. Guillermo is brought to a U.S. air base, where Alejandro tortures him and learns that there's a tunnel Díaz uses to smuggle drugs into the U.S. Kate begins to question the legality of the team's methods and wonders for whom Matt and Alejandro work.

The team travels to an Arizona Border Patrol station to question detained migrants. Reggie and Kate demand to know Matt’s plan; and he reveals that the objective is to disrupt Díaz's drug operations to such a degree that Díaz will be summoned back to Mexico by his boss, elusive Sonora Cartel drug lord Fausto Alarcón, and by following Diaz they will find Alarcón. The team raids a bank used by Díaz's money launderers, disrupting his cash flow.

At a local Arizona 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 he also works for the cartel. In the ensuing struggle, Ted gains the upper hand and begins strangling Kate, when Alejandro suddenly appears and subdues him. Alejandro and Matt reveal that they followed her as bait, suspecting that the cartel would send someone after her after she was seen by security cameras at the bank raid. Alejandro and Matt torture Ted into revealing the names of other officers working for Díaz.

They soon learn that Díaz is being recalled to Mexico, but Kate argues they have no jurisdiction in Mexico. Matt condescendingly tells her that he was only using her, as the C.I.A. need a U.S. law officer to grant them legal permission to operate within the U.S. Reggie advises that he and Kate walk away, but she insists on joining the raid on the tunnel to find out more. The team kills all the men in the tunnel, and Alejandro reaches the other end of the tunnel where he kidnaps one of Díaz's drug mules, a corrupt Mexican police officer named Silvio (Maximiliano Hernández). Kate arrives and attempts to arrest Alejandro, who shoots into her bulletproof vest before driving off with Silvio in his cruiser. Kate returns to the U.S. side of the tunnel where she confronts Matt.

Matt explains that by disabling the Sonora Cartel, they are attempting to return to a time when a single cartel, Medellín, ran the drug trade. This would ultimately return order to the industry and thus reduce violence, and until Americans stop using cocaine, this is the best they can hope for. Alejandro, who worked for Medellín, was brought on to assassinate Alarcón. Matt explains to Kate that Alarcón had ordered the murder of Alejandro’s wife and daughter and that this is Alejandro's opportunity for revenge.

In Mexico, Alejandro locates Diaz, kills Silvio and forces Diaz to continue to Alarcón. Reaching Alarcón’s estate, Alejandro, with the help of US surveillance technology, kills Díaz and all the guards. He finds the Alarcón family at their dinner table, accuses Alarcón of murdering his and many other families, and shoots his wife and both his sons before killing him.

Alejandro appears in Kate's apartment where he forces her at gunpoint to sign a waiver legitimizing the operation. As he leaves, she aims her pistol at him. He makes eye contact with her, and she 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.


Themes and analysis[edit]

According to the director Denis Villeneuve, the film was conceived at the height of the violence in Juárez in 2010.[4] According to Sebastian Rotella, an American foreign correspondent and investigative journalist, Sicario examined many aspects of the U.S. War on Drugs against, most generally, drug cartels in Mexico, Central, and South America.[6] 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."[6] Rotella asserts that progress has been made in Mexico, and expresses qualms over the depiction of the film's "black ops campaign," relative to his experience that most U.S. operations resulted in the arrest and prosecution of drug lords.[6]


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 ancient Sicarii), from a screenplay by Taylor Sheridan.[7] Black Label Media financed and co-produced with Thunder Road Pictures.[8] Basil Iwanyk produced the film along with Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill, and Thad Luckinbill.[8]

Emily Blunt became involved with the film in April 2014,[9][10] shortly followed by Benicio del Toro.[10] Jon Bernthal and Josh Brolin joined the film in May, and cinematographer Roger Deakins was also hired.[11][12][13] Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández, and Jeffrey Donovan were then cast,[14][15][16] 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]


Jóhann Jóhannsson was selected to write and compose the score for the movie, this was his second collaboration with the director Denis Villeneuve. Jóhannsson's work scoring the movie was highly praised, consequently, Sicario was nominated to 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.

All music composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

1."Armoured Vehicle"1:42
2."The Beast"3:14
3."The Border"2:59
6."Desert Music"5:08
9."The Bank"2:04
13."Night Vision"3:46
14."Tunnel Music"4:41
17."Soccer Game"4:21
18."Alejandro's Song"5:48
Total length:54:29


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 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]

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.[26]


Box office[edit]

Sicario grossed $46.9 million in the United States & 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.[27] On its first day, the film grossed $4.3 million. In its opening weekend, it grossed $12.1 million, exceeding expectations, finishing behind The Martian and Hotel Transylvania 2.[28] In the second weekend the film made $7.6 million, dropping 38% and finishing fifth.[29]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregation website, Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93%, based on 244 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."[30] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 48 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[31] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[28]

Richard Roeper gave the film an A, calling it one of the year's best, and applauded del Toro's performance, saying:

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."[33]

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".[34] 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 Walter E. Kurtz and Lieutenant Colonel William Kilgore, respectively in Apocalypse Now.[35]


Before the film's release, Juarez mayor Enrique Serrano Escobar urged citizens to boycott it,[4] 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 made progress in restoring peace.[5]


Among other accolades, the film received three Academy Award nominations—for Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Editing.[36]


Lionsgate has commissioned a sequel centering on del Toro's character, subtitled Soldado.[37] The project is being overseen by writer Taylor Sheridan with Villeneuve also involved.[38] In April 2016, producers Molly Smith and Trent Luckinbill said del Toro and Brolin would return.[39] In June 2016, Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima was hired to direct, with Villeneuve no longer available due to scheduling conflicts.[37][40] Principal photography began on November 8, 2016 in New Mexico.[41]


  1. ^ "Sicario (15)". British Board of Film Classification. July 27, 2015. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  2. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (September 3, 2015). "Denis Villeneuve returns to morality's shifting line with 'Sicario". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 14, 2017. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Sicario (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 10, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c 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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  7. ^ Travers, Peter (September 17, 2015). "Sicario Movie Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 28, 2015. 
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External links[edit]