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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
Starring Emily Blunt
Benicio del Toro
Josh Brolin
Victor Garber
Jon Bernthal
Daniel Kaluuya
Music by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Edited by Joe Walker
Black Label Media
Thunder Road
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 $85 million[3]

Sicario is a 2015 American crime drama film directed by Denis Villeneuve, written by Taylor Sheridan, and starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin. It is about 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, prior to a nationwide release on October 2, 2015.

The film received three Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Editing, as well as three BAFTA nominations for Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Music. It was criticized by viewers in Mexico for the depiction of the city of Juarez where the plot takes place.[4][5] A sequel, Soldado, began shooting in November 2016.



In Chandler, Arizona, FBI Agents Kate Macer and Reggie Wayne lead a SWAT raid of a suspected Mexican cartel safehouse. Inside, the team discovers dozens of decaying corpses and a booby trap, which explodes and kills two police officers. Following the raid, Kate's boss, Dave Jennings, recommends her for a joint DOD-CIA task force, overseen by CIA officer Matt Graver, to apprehend the Sonora Cartel lieutenant Manuel Díaz, the man responsible for the bombing.

On a plane to El Paso, Kate meets Matt's partner, Alejandro Gillick. Joined by U.S. Marshals and DEA agents as well as U.S. Army Delta Force operators, the team travels to Juárez, Mexico to extradite Guillermo, one of Díaz's top men. As the team returns to El Paso over the Bridge of the Americas, they are ambushed by cartel gunmen. The team swiftly kills the gunmen and returns safely to El Paso, where Matt and Alejandro torture Guillermo, learning of a cartel tunnel used by Díaz to smuggle drugs into the U.S.

The team travels to an Arizona Border Patrol station to question detained illegal immigrants for information. Reggie and Kate confront Matt about their plan. Matt's 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. The team finds the tunnel and raids a bank used by Díaz's money launderers. Kate gathers enough probable cause evidence to obtain arrest warrants, but Jennings overrules her.

At a bar, Reggie introduces Kate to Ted, a friend and local Arizona police officer. As Kate and Ted become intimate in her apartment, Kate discovers a rubber wristband in Ted's possession identical to the ones used to bundle Díaz's laundered money. Realizing he has been made, Ted begins to strangle Kate, but is stopped by Alejandro, who knew the cartel would send someone after Kate. Alejandro and Matt torture Ted into revealing the names of other law enforcement officers working for Díaz.

The next morning, Díaz is called back to Mexico to meet with Alarcón. As the team follows, Kate argues that the FBI has no jurisdiction in Mexico. Matt dismisses her and Reggie, admitting that he used them only to grant the CIA legal permission to operate within the U.S. Kate insists on staying on the team. She and Reggie join the raid on the smuggling tunnel. In the organized chaos, Alejandro sneaks undetected into Mexico, where he kidnaps one of Díaz's mules, a corrupt Mexican police officer named Silvio. Kate attempts to arrest Alejandro, who disables her by shooting into her bulletproof vest before driving off with Silvio in his police cruiser.

Kate confronts Matt about the entire operation. Matt refers to Medellín as a time when a single cartel ran the drug trade and could thereby be more easily controlled. He goes on to explain that attaining this type of control was the best they had to hope for. He also explains that Alejandro, who is working with the Medellín Cartel, has been hired to assassinate Alarcón, which Alejandro sees as an opportunity to exact revenge for the murder of his wife and daughter by the Sonora Cartel.

In Mexico, Alejandro and Silvio stop Díaz's Mercedes. Alejandro kills Silvio, then, holding Díaz at gunpoint, forces him to drive to Alarcón's estate. Once there, Alejandro kills Díaz and all of Alarcón's guards. He then corners Alarcón and his family at their dinner table. After announcing his motive, Alejandro murders Alarcón's wife and two sons in front of him before executing Alarcón as well.

The next morning, Alejandro appears in Kate's apartment and orders her to sign a waiver legitimizing the entire operation. When she refuses, Alejandro threatens her at gunpoint. Kate signs the waiver, and Alejandro leaves. As he walks away, she aims her pistol at him from her balcony. Alejandro stops and faces Kate, but she is unable to pull the trigger, and he leaves.

Back in Mexico, Silvio's widow takes their son to his soccer game. The game is briefly interrupted by the sound of gunfire before continuing as if nothing had happened.


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, 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[citation needed] (the Spanish word for 'hitman'), as scripted 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][better source needed][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 aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 94%, based on 231 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 through 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, titled 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. ^ "Denis Villeneuve returns to morality's shifting line with 'Sicario". Los Angeles Times. 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. 
  9. ^ a b Yamato, Jen (July 21, 2014). "Jeffrey Donovan Joins 'Sicario'". Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  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. 
  16. ^ Raup, Jordan (May 23, 2014). "Roger Deakins to Reteam With the Coens and Denis Villeneuve This Year". Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Jóhann Jóhannsson to Score Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario'". August 27, 2014. Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  18. ^ Mayfield, Dan (June 18, 2014). "'Sicario' starts filming in ABQ at end of June". Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  19. ^ "On the Set for 6/30/14: Point Break Starts, Kevin James Wraps Up PPaul Blart: Mall Cop 2". Insider. June 30, 2014. 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. ^ "SICARIO". Festival de Cannes. 
  23. ^ "Screenings Guide". Festival de Cannes. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  24. ^ "Toronto to open with 'Demolition'; world premieres for 'Trumbo', 'The Program'". 28 July 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  25. ^ "Special Presentations: Sicario". Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on October 2, 2015. 
  26. ^ a b "'The Martian' Defies 'Gravity' On Friday; 'Everest' & 'The Walk' Largely Earthbound". 
  27. ^ "Sicario (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 3, 2016. 
  28. ^ "Sicario reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 7, 2015. 
  29. ^ Roeper, Richard (September 21, 2015). "'Sicario': The dark reality of the war on drugs". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 20, 2015. 
  30. ^ "Empire's Sicario Review". Retrieved 15 September 2015. 
  31. ^ Bradshaw, Peter. "Sicario review – Emily Blunt at the sharp end in war on drugs". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-30. 
  32. ^ Ryan, Chris. "Are My Methods Unsound? Why 'Sicario' Is the 'Apocalypse Now' of the Drug War". Grantland. Retrieved 2015-10-30. 
  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'". Retrieved June 4, 2016. 
  35. ^ Lang, Brent (September 21, 2015). "'Sicario' Sequel in the Works at Lionsgate". Variety. Retrieved October 12, 2015. 
  36. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (March 31, 2016). "Demolition' Producers Talk Indie Film Strategy, 'Sicario 2' Plans and Move to TV". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  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. 
  38. ^ Goundry, Nick (November 8, 2016). "Sicario sequel starts filming in New Mexico". KFTV News. Retrieved November 8, 2016. 

External linksEdit