A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sicario is a dramatic thriller about an FBI special task force dedicated to taking out drug lords in Mexico (the title means "hit man" in Spanish). It has a lot of strong, sometimes gruesome violence, with scenes of decomposing corpses, shootings, killings, fighting, bloody wounds, and explosions. A couple kisses and nearly has sex, but they're interrupted; the main female character is also shown in her bra. There's also some sex talk, as well as other strong language ("f--k," "a--hole," etc.). Drugs aren't readily shown, but characters sometimes drink or smoke a bit too much, and drug dealing is at the heart of the story. Though the material is intense and fairly grim, it's a masterful, often exhilarating movie with a complex, strong female lead character (played by Emily Blunt).
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What's the story?
In SICARIO, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and her partner, Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya), raid a house in Arizona, where they discover decomposing bodies hidden in the walls -- as well as hidden explosives; it's the work of powerful Mexican drug cartels. When the mysterious Matt (Josh Brolin) shows up and asks Kate to join a new task force dedicated to bringing the drug lords down, she agrees. And after meeting up with the even more cryptic Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), she discovers that there's more at stake than she imagined: She's given misinformation -- or no information -- and the task force's missions never seem to be more than arresting or shooting random thugs. As time goes on, Kate realizes that she's only a small cog in a much larger, darker plan.
Is it any good?
Aided by Roger Deakins' glorious cinematography, director Denis Villeneuve delivers an essential movie for our times: brilliant, bold, and unflinchingly pessimistic, but still exhilarating. Using a great first screenplay by actor Taylor Sheridan, Sicario places viewers directly in Kate's shoes; the movie spends long minutes simply watching, observing events without explaining them. It creates a world of tense uncertainty in which our hero could be in danger -- or safe -- at any time.
For such a complex movie, Sicario also manages to be strongly visual, underlining physical spaces -- open, shadowy, unsafe, tight areas -- and frequently noting how small Kate seems compared to her colleagues. It also manages a strong visceral sense of human capabilities and frailties (exhaustion, hunger, etc.), making later scenes even stronger. Given this powerful framework, the actors all deliver exemplary performances, with Del Toro perhaps at the forefront.
Talk to your kids about ...
What does the movie have to say about law versus justice? What's the difference between the two? Does the end justify the means?
How do you feel about Kate? Is she a role model? What are her flaws or shortcomings?
- In theaters: September 18, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: January 5, 2016
- Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin
- Director: Denis Villeneuve
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, grisly images, and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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