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Sicario 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 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Produced by
  • Basil Iwanyk
  • Edward L. McDonnell
  • Molly Smith
  • Thad Luckinbill
  • Trent Luckinbill
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 received praise for its screenplay, direction, musical score, cinematography, and for 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 the city of Juarez.[4][5] A sequel, Sicario 2: Soldado, began shooting in November 2016 and is scheduled to be released in June 2018.



In Chandler, Arizona, FBI Critical Incident Response Group Agents Kate Macer and Reggie Wayne lead a raid of a suspected Mexican cartel safehouse, where they discover dozens of decaying corpses and a booby trap that kills two officers. Following the raid, Kate's boss recommends her for a Department of Justice special joint task force, overseen by Matt Graver, to apprehend the Sonora Cartel lieutenant Manuel Díaz.

On a private jet to El Paso, Texas, Kate meets Matt's partner, the secretive Colombian Alejandro. 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, Manuel's brother and one of his top men. At the border crossing, the team preempts an ambush by swiftly killing many Mexican cartel gunmen. At a U.S. air base, Alejandro tortures Guillermo, learning of a tunnel Díaz uses to smuggle drugs into the U.S. Kate, however, begins to question the legality of the team's methods, and wonders for whom Matt and Alejandro really work.

The team travels to an Arizona Border Patrol station to question detained illegal immigrants. 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. While raiding the bank, Kate is advised not to enter, as she may be recognized later, but she refuses and enters anyway.

At a bar, Reggie introduces Kate to Ted, a friend and local police officer. Kate takes Ted to her apartment and as they start getting passionate, Kate realizes he is corrupt, and has been sent by the cartel to gather information on the operation. They struggle, he overpowers her, and begins to strangle her when Alejandro rescues her. Alejandro and Matt used her as bait and followed her home, suspecting that the cartel would send someone after her since she made herself known at the bank raid. Alejandro and Matt torture Ted into revealing the names of other American police officers working for Díaz and the cartel.

The team learns that Díaz is being re-called to Mexico, as they predicted, so the team plans to attack his smuggling tunnel on the border. Kate argues that they have no jurisdiction in Mexico, so Matt condescendingly tells her that he was only using her. The “DOJ joint task force” is really a façade for a CIA operation. As the CIA is not authorized to operate on US soil, her status as an FBI agent gave them legal permission to do so. Reggie advises Kate to walk away, but she insists on joining the raid on the tunnel in order to find out more. While the team kills everyone in the tunnels, Alejandro reaches the other end of the tunnel where he kidnaps one of Díaz's drug mules, a corrupt Mexican police officer named Silvio. 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 US 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 at gunpoint to continue to Alarcón. Reaching Alarcón’s estate, Alejandro, with the help of a CIA surveillance drone, 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 children in front of him, giving Alarcón a few seconds to see his dead family before Alejandro kills him as well.

Later, 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 as he makes eye contact with her, but she cannot bring herself to pull the trigger.

In Ciudad Juarez, Silvio's widow watches her son's soccer game. The game is briefly interrupted by the sound of gunfire, before continuing.


Themes and analysisEdit

According to 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.[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 ([si.ˈka.ɾjo], the Spanish word for 'hitman', from the ancient Sicarii), from a screenplay 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][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][10][9] 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 officeEdit

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 budget of $30 million, making it a financial success.[3]

On its first day, the film 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 responseEdit

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."[27] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 48 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[28] 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."[29] 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."[30]

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".[31] 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.[32]


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.[33]


Lionsgate has commissioned a sequel centering on del Toro's character, subtitled Soldado.[34] The project is being overseen by writer Taylor Sheridan with Villeneuve also involved.[35] In April 2016, producers Molly Smith and Trent Luckinbill said del Toro and Brolin would return.[36] In June 2016, Stefano Sollima was hired to direct, with Villeneuve no longer available due to scheduling conflicts.[34][37] Principal photography began on November 8, 2016, in New Mexico.[38]


  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. 
  5. ^ a b Nájar, Alberto (October 7, 2015). "¿Por qué la película "Sicario" enoja tanto a Ciudad Juárez?" (in Spanish). BBC. BBC Mundo. Archived from the original on November 14, 2015. Retrieved 23 May 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d Kroll, Justin (April 4, 2014). "Benicio del Toro Teams Up with Emily Blunt in 'Sicario'". Variety. Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Fleming Jr, Mike (May 30, 2014). "Josh Brolin Joins 'Sicario'". Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Siegel, Tatiana. "'Skins' Star Daniel Kaluuya to Co-Star in Denis Villenueve's 'Sicario'". The Hollywood Reporter (June 6, 2014). Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
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  10. ^ a b Yamato, Jen (June 24, 2014). "'Sicario' Adds 'Captain America 2′s Maximiliano Hernandez". Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c Rotella, Sebastian (2015). "Sicario's Dirty War on Mexican Cartels is Not Yet Reality". ProPublica. Retrieved October 30, 2015. 
  12. ^ Travers, Peter (September 17, 2015). "Sicario Movie Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 28, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Fleming Jr, Mike (December 6, 2013). "'Prisoners' Helmer Eyeing Tense Mexican Border Crime Drama 'Sicario' For Black Label". Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  14. ^ Kroll, Justin (April 2, 2014). "Emily Blunt to Star in 'Prisoners' Director's Next Pic 'Sicario'". Variety. Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  15. ^ Ford, Rebecca (May 29, 2014). "'Walking Dead' Star Jon Bernthal Joins Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
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  18. ^ Mayfield, Dan (June 18, 2014). "'Sicario' starts filming in ABQ at end of June". Albuquerque Business First. American City Business Journals. Archived from the original on July 1, 2014. Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  19. ^ "On the Set for 6/30/14: Point Break Starts, Kevin James Wraps Up PPaul Blart: Mall Cop 2". June 30, 2014. Archived from the original on June 3, 2017. Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  20. ^ McClintock, Pamela (May 6, 2014). "Cannes: Lionsgate Snaps Up U.S. Rights to 'Sicario'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  21. ^ "'Sicario' Gets Fall Release Date; Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin Star". February 23, 2015. Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  22. ^ "In Competition - Feature Films: Sicario". Festival de Cannes. Archived from the original on December 14, 2017. Retrieved December 14, 2017. 
  23. ^ "Screenings Guide". Festival de Cannes. May 6, 2015. Archived from the original on December 14, 2017. Retrieved May 8, 2015. 
  24. ^ Kay, Jeremy (July 28, 2015). "Toronto to open with 'Demolition'; world premieres for 'Trumbo', 'The Program'". Archived from the original on July 29, 2015. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  25. ^ "Special Presentations: Sicario". Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on October 2, 2015. 
  26. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (October 5, 2015). "'The Martian' Defies 'Gravity' On Friday; 'Everest' & 'The Walk' Largely Earthbound". 
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  28. ^ "Sicario reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 7, 2015. 
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  30. ^ Jolin, Dan (October 5, 2015). "Sicario Review". Empire. Archived from the original on December 14, 2017. Retrieved September 15, 2015. 
  31. ^ Bradshaw, Peter. "Sicario review – Emily Blunt at the sharp end in war on drugs". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 2015-10-30. 
  32. ^ Ryan, Chris. "Are My Methods Unsound? Why 'Sicario' Is the 'Apocalypse Now' of the Drug War". Archived from the original on December 14, 2017. Retrieved October 30, 2015. 
  33. ^ "Oscar Nominations: The Complete List". The Hollywood Reporter. January 14, 2016. 
  34. ^ a b Fleming, Mike, Jr. (June 1, 2016). "Gomorra's Stefano Sollima To Helm Benicio Del Toro & Josh Brolin In 'Sicario' Sequel 'Soldado'". Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016. 
  35. ^ Lang, Brent (September 21, 2015). "'Sicario' Sequel in the Works at Lionsgate". Variety. Archived from the original on October 1, 2017. Retrieved October 12, 2015. 
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  37. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (June 1, 2016). "'Sicario' Sequel Lands Its Director". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016. 
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External linksEdit