Released in 2015, Sicario follows a government task force. It consists of FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), and Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). These characters aid in the war against drugs near the U.S border and Juárez. Specifically, they look into the Sonora Cartel and its ringleader, Fausto Alarcon.
We experience the story through Kate Macer’s eyes as we go into this mission blindly. We know it’s related to taking down the Sonora Cartel, a violent man named Manuel Diaz, and… that’s about it. Matt and Alejandro are the real leaders of the mission and they’re more than a little suspicious. We’re given small pieces of the puzzle along the way. But we don’t get the whole picture until near the end. It, therefore, makes us feel like we’re waiting for the film to explain what the hell is really going on. Because it’s clear Kate doesn’t. Neither does Reggie, her partner, which doesn’t help. The team eventually learns of an underground tunnel that the cartel is using to smuggle drugs into the U.S.
Before they go into the tunnel, we find out that Matt is C.I.A. And Kate’s really only there because the C.I.A doesn’t have jurisdiction in the U.S. However, the F.B.I does. Then during the mission, Kate sees something she wasn’t supposed to. And that’s when Matt finally clues her (and us) into what’s really going on. Alejandro used to be a hitman for Medellín, the competing drug cartel (to Sonora). So his partnership with Matt is therefore illegal. Their goal is for the drug trade to go back to being controlled by one cartel (opposed to many). Namely, the Medellín cartel. Additionally, Alejandro’s there for much more than tactical support. He has it out for Fausto Alarcón because he killed his wife and daughter. It only further complicates things because this overload of information completely goes against Kate’s by-the-book values.
Why Sicario Works
The approach of being confused yet suspicious throughout the majority of the film is an interesting one. We’re essentially searching for the plot, which only increases the skepticism towards everything that’s going on. And it lingers until we’re given an explanation and it ultimately ups the suspense.
Sicario also does a brilliant job of showing the dehumanization of war. And we see that through Kate’s gradual disillusion of the U.S government’s righteousness. Matt obviously sees working with Alejandro as a positive thing. Even if it means leaving Medellín to run the drug trade. While Kate’s idealism is admirable, Matt’s mentality is much more realistic. Completely eradicating the drug trade altogether isn’t really a feasible goal. At least not in a short amount of time. So in the end, Kate finally realizes that. And therefore, she isn’t able to shoot Alejandro.
Even though we’re suspicious of him, I still found the truth about Alejandro surprising. We knew something was obviously off about him, but we didn’t know what that would entail. The violence, as brutal as it is, keeps us on our toes in terms of how it would all end. We knew something was coming but I never expected it to end the way it did.
Finding out that Alejandro was part of the drug war also enhances the story. It goes from being about more than just good vs. evil. And Matt’s realistic approach to the drug war obviously blurs the line between the two. Once we’re told the whole story, it evolves into becoming Alejandro’s revenge story. Which only makes the long waiting period of finding out what the real plot was worth it in the end.