Emily Blunt is Spanish for Hitman in SICARIO


#21

Graver (Brolin) explained Alejandro (Del Toro) earlier as something like “working for whoever would let him be what they made him”. I’m probably butchering that line, or mixing up two different ones, but nothing made me think Alejandro’s relationship with Graver/the CIA would have ended at this point. And for a meeting that could’ve gotten very messy, Alejandro makes sense as the one to send.


#22

Thanks. Yeah, it wasn’t that out of place, and I recall that line. I just figured that he’d deprecate his involvement since he revenged the family.


#23

the final scene

[spoiler]Alejandro could have easily waxed Macer during the tunnel raid. Dude didn’t hit her body armor twice by accident.

My money is on Graver, who was absolutely menacing during his last scene.

Shooting Macer with Delta watching would have been messy, but Delta may have gone along. The problem is he’d also need to knock off Wayne, and two dead FBI agents is harder to explain.[/spoiler]


#24

Excellent film. Casting was superb.


#25

I really liked it. It was different from what I expected as I thought it was going to be slightly more action-y, but I enjoyed what was served. Good performances by Blunt, del Toro and Brolin. And Deakins delivered, too. Loved the lighting in several scene, particularly the scene where Alejandro makes Macer sign the document at the end. Also, using the sunset as a backdrop to have the strike team descend into darkness both literally and metaphorically - wonderful choice. The team entering Juarez to fetch Guillermo was super-tense thanks to the way it was set up and filmed.

Spoiler territory:

I appreciated how some things simply went differently from what you expected based on your knowledge of other movies, e.g.:

  • Them transporting Guillermo across the border: Love the build-up, how the spotted attackers and prepared their move. And just when you think you’re in for a gun battle on the highway, they basically shoot the Mexicans.

  • Silvio the corrupt Mexican cop: the way he was introduced and with the movie’s title being Sicario you kinda think that he’s the character the title is referring and that he’ll have to do a hit on Macer, Alejandro or Graver at some point. You know, showing characters on a collision course and such. Turns out he wasn’t.

  • Alejandro: turns out to be the titular component, but it’s not a big “OMG!” twist. After all, he seems to be on the grey side of things right from the beginning on and his exact role unclear in an obvious way.

  • Alejandro shooting the cartel boss’s family going against the grain of the honorable killer who’d let at least the children go. It happens very sudden and was done with great effect with the camera focusing on Alejandro.

I liked what wasn’t shown. We don’t see them torturing Guillermo or beating up Ted. There have been a number of films that made an extra point to show how the ‘good guys’ doing ‘very bad things’, e.g. Zero Dark Thirty or The Good Shepherd. Sicario simply relied on the audience knowing the deal and just showing Alejandro carrying the water or Ted already being roughed up - thus not losing its focus. And while other movies are about the question whether it’s worth sacrificing ideals for the supposed greater good, this seems more like: We won’t be able to ‘win’ the war on drugs, so we’re doing what seems to be most pragmatic.

The soundtrack did a great job of supporting the mood. It wasn’t really about memorable themes or so, but drums and other ambient work were perfect for the tension.


#26

torture - gotta love the little things

…like how easy and effective the finger in the ear was - Alejandro knew what to do.


#27

Finally saw this, liked it a lot - a very noir noir. Didn’t realize Deakins shot it until the credits rolled, at which point I said, “of course!”

I did roll my eyes a bit at the OMG-a-hurricane-of-violence-is-coming-to-your-nice-American-town theme, exemplified by the opening. I mean it fit in fine artistically as part of the noirverse the movie was establishing, but it does give a misleading picture of the reality. As bad as things have gotten in parts of Mexico, the cartels do know which side their bread is buttered on and keep the nastiest stuff on their side of the border. You’re more likely to get killed in, say, Missouri or Pennsylvania than in Arizona. Homicide is still mostly proudly Made In America!


#28

I got so fired up to defend my homeland that I checked the numbers and…you’re half right. Missouri’s homicide rate is in fact greater than Arizona’s.

Pennsylvania is still safer, thank God.


#29

I don’t think it matters whether it’s accurate. Instead, it matters that this was part of the movie’s world-building. Sicario is set in a world where the situation in Mexico has gotten so out of hand that the US wants the Columbian cartels to take over. That opening scene established that what you’re talking about – the Mexican cartels working within limits – had fallen apart.

-Tom


#30

I recognized that it was a beautiful shot, but didn’t catch the thematic resonance. Thanks!

The soundtrack did a great job of supporting the mood. It wasn’t really about memorable themes or so, but drums and other ambient work were perfect for the tension.

I’m not the biggest fan of horror movies, but up until the nighttime jaunt over the border, it sounded like it was scored like a horror movie.

I think that’s a little disappointing, that this Clancy-esque technothriller has to be seen as set in a slightly fictionalized world. It’s not like they set the story in “Syriana” or a low earth orbit where NASA still uses the space shuttle; it was set in Texas, Arizona, and the border of Mexico.

I mostly liked this movie until it became clear that the wrong character was the main character. I had a lot of sympathy for Emily Blunt’s character and was excited to see her stamp out evil, or solve crimes, or whatever. She’s a tough, competent federal agent. She could shoot a kidnapper that was shooting at her and not go to pieces over it. Her partner ought to have been even more of a badass, with his CV that included a stint in Afghanistan (or was it Iraq?) and a law degree. But after that initial scene, the screenplay infantilized them both. Once Del Toro and Brolin arrive, they are sidelined and manipulated. David Kaluuya’s character is treated like a sissy compared to the other soldiers straight from Afghanistan (though how many of them also have a law degree?). How many times does Del Toro compare her to his daughter? How many times does Brolin or Del Toro save Blunt as if she’s a damsel in distress? How many times do they discipline her for bad behavior? Blunt finds a boyfriend that is bad for her? Her two father figures bail her out. Christ, Blunt apparently can’t even be trusted to close and lock her apartment door. It’s like Blunt is Stacy Keanan, grinning Brolin is Greg Evigan, and Del Toro is Paul Reiser. When she tries to push back against their authority, it’s from the stupidest time and place available, like shouting defiance when Brolin has her in a submission hold, or aiming a pistol at Del Toro from a second story balcony. And of course she doesn’t follow through on either tantrum. When she tries to figure out what she’s doing in Juarez, she’s too shy to talk to anyone but Del Toro or Brolin, and not enough of an investigator to seek out other sources. Heck, she and her friends only found the corpses in the corpse house when a bad guy shot a hole in the wall, and they only found that it was booby trapped when a cop sets off the booby trap. If she were in a minefield, would she try to get out by blundering into mines and hoping that the grownups would rescue her again?

I get that the movie was trying to show that she and her FBI were, duh, pawns in a much larger and darker game. But Blunt wasn’t even a pawn. She was a plastic baggie that pawns are stored in between games.

Well, that’s what I didn’t like about Sicario. I loved Saint Deakins’ cinematography, of course. I liked how it showed how nation-states could flex its enormous powers but still run into challenges. At its best, convoys skip through checkpoints like celebrities, magical eyes in the sky pierce the night. At its worst, the convoys still have to respect a traffic jam, soldiers still have to clear out underground tunnels. At its best, Del Toro, imbued with all the power of the US military, gets to his goal by grabbing successively better credentials like a dedicated hacker. At its worst, Del Toro tries to calm chaos by…creating a power vacuum. (Because the Medellin cartel, decapitated back in '93, will not be coming to northern Mexico to run things without a bloody and chaotic struggle for power.) I just wish Blunt wasn’t treated like a little girl.


#31

I actually liked that aspect of the movie, and I think it addresses a lot of your complaints, although probably not to your liking. But the two reveals in Sicario are 1) Emily Blunt’s character is there only to satisfy a bureaucratic requirement (which explains the treatment of David Kaluuya’s character), and 2) Benecio del Toro is the main character.

And I say that as someone who really disliked how Emily Blunt’s character was sidelined in Edge of Tomorrow. That was a narrative convenience. In Sicario, it’s the whole point.

Also, I think you’re missing a very important point in that awesome convoy scene. They barge through the streets like celebrities when they’re in Mexico. And then they cross the border into the US and come to a halt in a traffic jam. It’s all about the border. That action sequence is Sicario in a microcosm.

-Tom


#32

I haven’t quite finished the podcast but I wanted to get my thoughts down while they were still fresh in my head as I found myself wanting to jump into the coversation while listening to the podcast.

I agree with a lot of what JD and Djscman said. In particular…

Absolutely, I think light vs darkness was a major theme of this movie and really addresses Tom’s question about whether or not the movie takes a moral position on the actions of the CIA and their cartel partners. (Though I think that Benico murdering the children should settle the question of “Do the ends justify the means?” without having to read to much into the subtext!)

The contract signing scene makes it clear that Blunt is in the light and Del Toro in darkness but, as Tom says, the major point that this movie seems to be making is that there is no room in this world for childish idealism. In that sense, this movie is less a coming of age story and more the reverse.

Infantilized is exactly the word I was thinking of. I think it was intentional and key to the movies message. Blunt starts the movie as a tough, competent veteran who is very much self assured and in control. Right from the get go, though, the movie starts to reveal to her that there is a darkness hidden beneath the surface of the world she thinks she knows. That opening scene, with the sunlight coming through the windows of a suburban house in an American middle class suburban neighborhood, quickly falls apart. Hidden in the darkness behind the walls lies a world of horror. Blunt and the other agents aren’t looking for it and are taken aback by it, just as they are caught off guard by the explosion that shreds their world and the peace of this bucolic neighborhood.

From there it’s all downhill for her. As the movie goes on, she loses more and more power as they descend first South of the border (black snake on the hunt as Tom says) then literally underground. The reveal at the end that she was never anything more than a pawn being used to satisfy a legal technicality is the final stripping away of any illusion of power she might have still held. The lawyer is disdained because the law is disdained. It’s something to be twisted to your ends. It’s naive to believe that idealism has any place in this world of horrors and the CIA is no better than the cartels in the end in that they are perfectly happy to kill children in pursuit of their goals. And I wouldn’t say that order is their goal as they are gleeful at the chaos they have created by cutting off the head of the chicken. Indeed, there are multiple times when they talk about using chaos as a tool.

It’s a darker movie, really, than one which says, “The ends justify the means.” The latter suggests that there is maybe justice or order in the universe. This movie suggests the opposite.


#33

That fight would not take place in Mexico. All cocaine comes from South America. Back when the Colombians were in charge, they controlled manufacturing (Colombia), transport (boats and planes to Florida) and distribution in the US. Whenever Cocaine stopped flowing through Florida, the Colombians invented the “trampoline” and started paying the Mexican cartels to handle transport into the US. The Colombians, having solved their transport problem, still had a huge interdiction problem because the DEA was focused on them like the Eye of Mordor. The Colombians eventually got out of distribution altogether.

The Mexican cartels do not handle mid to low level distribution and if they ever decided to, the violence of Mexico would indeed start coming across the border. The Colombians really don’t have the reputation they have in the US because of violence that occurred back in South America (even though it added to it), they have that reputation because they were playing out their power games in the streets of Miami. All the smugglers will tell you that everything was cool here in the US until this started happening.

I think another subtext of this movie is the CIA’s illusion that it can maintain any sort of control. In fact the Josh Brolin character even refers to Alejandro as a “weapon to be pointed” or something to that effect.

Did they specifically refer to the Colombians as “Medellin”?


#34

My memory of the movie is getting hazy, but either the sympathetic Mexican cop or an imminently-dead cartel flunky called Del Toro “Medellin” as soon as Del Toro emerged from the tunnel.


#35

Yep, I remember that as well. In fact, I think he’s called Medellin more than once.

-Tom


#36

Yes, I’m sure there were at least two occasions where that reference was made during the movie.

My memory of the movie is getting hazy, but either the sympathetic Mexican cop or an imminently-dead cartel flunky called Del Toro “Medellin” as soon as Del Toro emerged from the tunnel.

It’s been a few weeks, but I think it’s the cop asking Alejandro about whom he’s associated with or if he’s DEA or something, and it’s Alejandro who then answers “Medellin”.


#37

That was BS though, right? Alejandro identified himself as Medellin to confuse the Mexicans and conceal the CIA’s involvement. I thought he was a former federal prosecutor that the CIA recruited because he had a grudge against the Mexican cartel.


#38

The federal prosecutor story came from an unreliable source. He was a little too good at his job for that to hold water.


#39

Or he was motivated enough by the death of his family to spend a few months in Virginia or Fayetteville and learn a new skill set.


#40

I need to correct myself: according to the Wikipedia synopsis, it’s Silvio who refers to Alejandro as Medellin as Djscman stated - not Alejandro identifying himself.

Whether Alejandro worked as a federal prosecutor or not - yep, unreliable narrator. However, before he got shot, the Mexican drug lord asked Alejandro if he thinks his (Alejandro’s wife) would have been ok with what he has become. Which, I guess, alludes that Alejandro’s indeed used to have some sort of ‘honorable’ job.