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Home > ‘Sicario’ and Corruption, A Good Look in The Mirror

‘Sicario’ and Corruption, A Good Look in The Mirror

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Two Sides of the Same Coin

In the sphere of exemplary filmmaking, Sicario stands out due to its ability to create a realistic narrative that invokes not only entertainment but also fear. Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 film shows a murky and war-torn land that plagues modern society, the cartel societies. Emily Blunt’s portrayal of Kate Macer brings these complex themes to life, thus creating a way for audiences to witness how law enforcement “handles” the cartels. As the movie progresses, the story thickens, and the answers to the questions that both Kate and the audience are looking for are shown to be in plain sight after all.  

Disturbing Reality

The film starts by instilling fear into the main character as she assists in raiding a suspected cartel-associated household. As they enter the home, it becomes clear to Kate that something is within the house’s walls. After further inspection, it turns out that the cartel was stashing several dead bodies within the walls. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, as Kate goes outside for a breather and some other officers inspect a small warehouse outside the home, it explodes and leaves several dead and injured. 

This is only a minor example of what happens throughout the rest of the film as Kate unfolds the realities of the covert operation she has put herself in with the CIA following the raid on the house. She realizes that the evidence of the cartel’s wrongdoings is in plain sight, and the worst part of that realization is that it shows that the government law enforcement is choosing to do nothing substantial about it. The audience also learns the ins and outs of how society works within a cartel-dominated area, with cops falling into corruption and lives being taken in the blink of an eye without a care in the world. Violence seemingly erupts out of thin air while cartel and government leaders get to sit in their homes doing nothing about it. 

Witness to Corruption

Emily Blunt’s portrayal of Kate Macer allows her to serve as the guiding moral compass for the film, even though she often faces a strong dilemma on whether the work she does is ethical. She serves as the viewer’s eyes and ears into the world that cartels bring upon innocent bystanders. Part of her ability to serve as a moral compass is due to how she conducts her actions, as she is always trying to be one step ahead of the enemy while, unfortunately, always being one step behind somehow. The audience worries for her and her declining mental stability as she experiences the horrid crimes of the cartel and those who will stop at nothing to end the cartel. 

One very clear example of this can be seen during the infamous Mexican border scene near the film’s halfway point. It is often discussed in filmmaking education as an exemplary way to depict a thrilling and teeth-grinding moment on the big screen. The scene itself sketches out how Kate and her CIA covert operations team snagged a package from within cartel territory and must now deliver it back to the US. The scene begins to ramp up close to when they have already picked up the package as their police escorts begin to diverge from the route and take suspicious avenues. The scene then arrives at a standstill as the team is held up by traffic at the border and are seemingly surrounded by cartel thugs and corrupt cops. A swift shootout ensues and leaves Kate with a strong sense of confusion as to what she has gotten herself into. 

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Emily Blunt in 'Sicario' | Image: Lionsgate Films

Amplifying the Impact

Part of the reason the film feels so down-to-earth and realistic is that director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins employ certain techniques. By using a gray and mostly unsaturated color palette, Deakins can create a moody and dark atmosphere that lends itself to a more terrifying tone. This comes through in a big way, as shots like the soldiers entering the cartel caves stand out as beautiful yet unsettling images. 

This complex illustration of the world of Sicario is crucial to the film’s success and allows the audience to peer into the gritty and dark real world. By creating a solemn and tragic landscape for the viewer, Denis Villeneuve creates a sense of naturalism that imposes itself on the reader and leaves them with something to think about after the film has concluded. 


When it comes to cinematic storytelling, Sicario excels at combining dramatic elements with naturalist worldviews. This combination not only strikes the viewer with a sense of entertainment and intrigue to a certain degree, but it also shows them the parts of society they might not have been exposed to before watching the film. In a world where lives can be shattered in the blink of an eye, it’s important to take a long look and realize how society got there in the first place and what horrifying cogs are working in the machinery of life itself. 

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Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro in 'Sicario' | Image: Lionsgate Films

Sicario (2015) Lionsgate Films Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Hi! I am a Dramatic Writing and Performing Arts major at SCAD from Puerto Rico. I have an intense passion for all things film, tv, and music. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and putting it out there is the most important.

Matt Keyser is a recent graduate of Cal State Fullerton University with a bachelor's in Communications-Journalism. He is a freelance entertainment reporter with a focus on film and television. As a former senior programming coordinator for the Newport Beach Film Festival, Matt's experience with critiquing narratives and documentaries has helped showcase his passion for television and cinema through his writing.