Sicario

The border is just another line to cross.

Emily as: Kate Macer
Genre(s): Action | Drama
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Other Cast: Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal
Release Date: September 25, 2015
Production Budget: $30m
Total Worldwide Gross: $84m
Filming Locations: Albuquerque, New Mexico and Mexico City, Mexico

When Arizona FBI agent and kidnap-response-team leader Kate Macer (Golden Globe® winner Emily Blunt) uncovers a Mexican cartel’s house of death, her shocking find leads to profound consequences on both a personal and global level. Kate is recruited to join a covert black-ops mission headed by a mysterious Colombian operative known only as Alejandro (Academy Award® winner Benicio del Toro, Best Supporting Actor, Traffic, 2000) along with special agent Matt Graver (Academy Award® nominee Josh Brolin, Best Supporting Actor, Milk, 2008). Even as Kate tries to convince herself she’s on a hunt for justice, she is thrust into the dark heart of a secret battleground that has swept up ruthless cartels, kill-crazy assassins, clandestine American spies and thousands of innocents.

Production Info

  • While Benicio del Toro’s character is frequently silent in the movie, he initially had more lines. “In the original script, the character explained his background several times to Kate,” del Toro said. “And that gave me information about who this guy was, but it felt a little stiff to have someone you just met 15 minutes ago suddenly telling you what happened to him and who he is.” Working with director Denis Villeneuve, del Toro began cutting some of his dialogue to preserve the mystery of his character; Villeneuve estimates they cut 90 percent of del Toro’s intended dialogue. Like del Toro, Villeneuve saw power in stripping the character down to a brooding silence, stating that dialogue belongs to plays and “movies are about movement, character, and presence, and Benicio had all that.”
  • The thermal vision shots in the film were shot with a FLIR SC8300 thermal vision camera and they were not added in the post-production.
  • The word “Sicario” derives from the Latin word “Sicarius”, meaning “dagger man”. The term was used by Romans to describe Jewish Zealots who killed Roman citizens using a “sica” or small dagger hidden in their cloaks. It is possible that the second name of Judas Iscariot comes from the same root. There were so many murders in the Providence of Judea around the 1st Century A.D. that the figure of “Sicarius” was codified in Roman Law (Lex Cornelia de Sicariis et Veneficis – Cornelian Law for Stabbers and Poisoners) of 81 AD. These words also derive from the verb “secare”, which means to slice. The word Sicario is used in Spanish and Italian.
  • Cinematographer Roger Deakins was inspired by the photography of Alex Webb, especially Crossings: Photographs from the U.S.-Mexico Border, published in 2003.
  • The banner seen in the Juarez is hard to read, but you can clearly see “Los Estamos Observando”, which translates to “We are watching you”.
  • Speaking on his decision to cast Emily Blunt, Villeneuve stated that he was blown away by her work in The Young Victoria, and was impressed with her display of both vulnerability and inner strength.
  • Most of the conversation between Reggie and Kate in The Wild Pony bar scenes was actually improvised by Daniel Kaluuya and Emily Blunt.
  • The Wild Pony bar is actually on Hwy 314 SW, in Los Lunas, NM, about 29 miles south of Albuquerque, and 425 miles from Tucson, where Kate and Reggie were supposed to be.
  • While researching her role, Emily Blunt relied on the stories of female FBI agents to inform her performance, taking from them both a sense of toughness and an everyday loneliness. She asked them about the job, their relationships, their fears, what it was like working in an almost all-male role, and what they did to decompress after a hard day.
  • Emily Blunt started filming four months after she delivered her first baby girl, Hazel.
  • Character Quotes

  • That was fucking illegal. You wanna start a war? You’re a fucking spook! And him! I mean, who the fuck is that? Jesus Christ. You just spray bullets at… Yeah, sure, there’s just fucking civilians everywhere. I’m not a soldier! This is not what I do!
  • You know, we’re not even scratching the surface doing what we’re doing.
  • I just tried to have sex with my hitman.
  • You can’t do this. You can’t. I’m sure as shit not the person you’re gonna hide it all behind. I’m gonna fuckin’ talk. I’m gonna tell everyone what you did.
  • Matt: Are you married?
    Kate: Am I married?
    Matt: Do you have a husband?
    Kate: Divorced.
    Matt: Kids?
    Kate: No. Anything else?
  • Dave: Kate, you must volunteer for an inter-agency task force. Think very hard before you respond. You wanna be a part of this?
    Kate: Do we get an opportunity at the men responsible for today?
    Matt: The men who were really responsible for today, yeah.
    Kate: I’ll volunteer.
  • Kate: Is he CIA? Are you?
    Matt: He’s a DOD advisor, just like me.
    Kate: No, he’s not.
    Matt: Just pay attention to Alejandro. If he says do somethin’, just do it.
    Kate: I’m not authorized to follow orders from Alejandro! Especially in Mexico!
    Matt: Fine. Then stay here. But you don’t want to, do you?
    Kate: I just wanna know what I’m getting into.
  • Reggie: Hey, Kate. Tell me what happened in El Paso.
    Kate: We weren’t in El Paso. We were in Mexico.
  • Reggie: Talk to me. What are we doing?
    Kate: I don’t have any answers for you.
    Reggie: Let’s get some, then.
    Kate: Do you think I haven’t asked these questions? Do you think you can do better?
    Reggie: Yeah.
    Kate: Go ahead.
  • Reggie: Gotta get you a new bra, woman.
    Kate: The list of things I need.
    Reggie: I’m just saying. Some nice lacy somethin’.
    Kate: It’s been a while since someone’s seen me in a bra, except you. Oh, God, don’t look at me like that. I don’t want your pity.
    Reggie: How was seeing Evan the other day?
    Kate: I don’t know…
    Reggie: Miss him?
    Kate: Ask me something else.
  • Matt: What’s the password?
    Kate: Moron.
  • Kate: $9000 is deposited into this account every day in cash, for five years.
    Dave: That’s not illegal. It’s suspect, but it isn’t illegal.
    Kate: I think the IRS might think it’s illegal.
    Dave: What do you want, Kate? What would you like done here?
    Kate: I want to follow some semblance of procedure. That’s what I want. To build a prosecutable case.
    Dave: We prosecuted more felony drug cases in this region last year than in the two previous years combined. Are you feeling that on the street? You getting the vibe that we’re winning?
    Kate: No.
  • Reggie: Macer?
    Kate: Yeah?
    Reggie: I hate to go on about this, but I think the bra situation’s the least of your problems.
    Kate: Okay [Laughing]
    Reggie: ‘Cause you look like shit. You do. You look like shit. Everybody on the team’s talkin’ about it. They’re like, “Kate used to be a number one draft pick. Now look at her. She looks like fuckin’ shit.” Look at you. Your eyebrows are a mess.
    Kate: No, they’re not!
    Reggie: They’re like caterpillars, like wild beasts. You’re losing weight…
    Kate: I’m eating.
    Reggie: Look at you. What is it, one T-shirt a week? At least work on your personal hygiene, huh?
    Kate: You sound like my mother.
  • Kate: Where have you taken me? What is this place?
    Reggie: It’s a bar.
    Kate: It’s full o’ cowboys.
    Reggie: I’m a cowboy.
    Kate: You’re a redneck.
  • Quoting: Emily Blunt

    On her character: Kate is tempted by this world. She realizes she was barely scratching the surface doing things by the book and now she wants to believe she can do something that will make a real difference. Yet the very idea of no longer following the rules turns Kate’s whole world upside down. Nothing makes sense anymore.

    On Kate’s loneliness: She’s recently divorced, and the lonely apartment you see her in is her new existence. I decided that she’s someone who defines herself solely by her job, and so it’s very hard for her to hold down a relationship. I don’t think she has many friends. She’s kind of a loner. Reggie, her work partner, is the only person she lets in. You see a convivial relationship there. We actually improvised a lot of the stuff between them.

    On Kate’s morals: Kate is really the moral compass of Sicario. I was intrigued by her need to always do things in the right way, by the law. When she gets thrown into this incoherent world of CIA ops and cartels, it is completely alien to her. Whereas she’s always been held accountable for every bullet she fires, they spray bullets. All the accountability that has been her way of being is gone from this world, and she is in shock at the whole thing.

    On Kate and Alejandro’s relationship: He is this rather mystical character and he doesn’t say much. She has her eye on him, and she doesn’t necessarily trust him. At the same time, I think he sees in Kate something that he’s lost in himself. They have this rather strange, almost magnetic link that they never fully get to explore under these extreme circumstances. They’re drawn to each other in an unspoken way.

    On her attraction to the role: The reveal of those bodies [in the opening scenes], and then all the images of Kate’s apartment and the loneliness of her life. To go from that dynamic, crazy, traumatic experience to what happens in the aftermath, when people go home and they have to go to bed, that was what interested me.

    On preparing for the role: I spoke to four women in the FBI — one of them I sort of based the character on. You really understood how all-encompassing it is, how consuming, how taxing, how difficult it is to detach from work, how hard it is on your social life, on your relationships, on your personal life. So that was really helpful to get into the type of personality that would end up in law-enforcement as a woman. And then I trained physically with local FBI and Delta Force.

    On the fight scene in Kate’s apartment: It’s so desperate. We wanted it to be very authentic, to not feel too choreographed, because she thinks she’s going to die, and that’s what it has to look like. It had quite a lasting effect on me – and I’m not someone who takes my work home with me. But I couldn’t sleep after that scene, because it was the embodiment of what would happen naturally: someone of my size would inevitably be overpowered by a person Jon’s [Bernthal] size. So when you physically put yourself in that position and you shoot it all day, it has a jarring effect. I felt like my skin was on fire.

    On working with Denis Villeneuve: He is the sweetest man, with the darkest soul. He has a very interesting relationship with violence. I think he’s able to find beauty in the darkest of places.

    Quoting: Cast and Crew

    Director Denis Villeneuve: Emily is becoming more and more a Hollywood star, but she’s very grounded. From the first day I met her it’s like meeting a friend, someone who doesn’t create a distance with you.

    Writer Taylor Sheridan: I went through extreme lengths when I wrote Kate. The thing about that character, is she’s incredibly passive. She’s victimized at every turn. It took a lot of care, and tremendous talent on the part of Emily Blunt, for a character who doesn’t get to do much, but complain and argue, yet to give that soul, and to be victimized without being a victim. It’s incredibly hard. I knew from day one it was going to take a beast of an actress to pull it off, and she did. She has to be the eyes of the audience. She has to say the things we’re thinking. It’s how I keep the audience in the dark, is by keeping her in the dark. Emily did it with incredible grace and I’m just awed by what she accomplished.

    Co-star Benicio del Toro: Josh [Brolin] and Emily are very similar—they’re very professional in front of the camera, but then when you hear cut, they turn the set into a sitcom. They’re real funny and really enjoy having a good laugh. I’m different: I kinda keep to the side a little bit to myself, but they really got me out of my shell.

    Critical Response

    Scott Foundas, Variety: In a terrific performance that recalls the steely ferocity of Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs and Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty, Emily Blunt stars here as Kate Macer, an FBI field agent who has been forced to don a Teflon exterior in order to rise through the Bureau’s male-dominated ranks, and to cope with the depravity she frequently witnesses in the line of duty.

    Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: Sicario offers Blunt’s character nothing in the way of military challenges that can quite rival what the actress took on last year in Edge of Tomorrow. Instead, she provides a sharply penetrating reading of a smart, resilient young woman whose desire to help out is no match for the deceptions and frustrating barriers placed in her way. Seeing how much she has to contribute — to the missions at hand, to the country, to a personal relationship — it’s sad bordering on tragic to think that she could end up as just another potential victim of an unending war that, in one way or another, poisons everyone it touches. Blunt’s performance is first-rate.

    Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times: Blunt, who handily stole last year’s Tom Cruise action vehicle Edge of Tomorrow from its star, again proves herself as one of the most versatile and compelling actresses today. Here she shapes her character as something of a modern-day Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs, an initiate to a world far removed from the one she trained for yet capable of adapting to its unfamiliar ways.

    Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: The audience surrogate is definitely FBI field agent Kate Macer, played by Emily Blunt in a powerhouse performance that ranks with the year’s best. Blunt proved she could kick ass in Edge of Tomorrow, in which co-star Tom Cruise looked like a wuss by comparison. In Sicario, Kate is damn near a woman alone.

    Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: Blunt’s performance has an edge of steel. She brings off a mix of confidence, bewilderment and vulnerability, which functions very well against the alpha male characters higher up the chain of command. Their chemistry with her is a weird mix of flirtatious banter and almost fatherly, melancholy concern.

    Awards and Nominations

    Below is a list of all accolades Emily has received for her role in the film.

    NOMINATED: AACTA International Awards – Best Actress
    NOMINATED: Alliance of Women Film Journalists – Best Female Action Star
    NOMINATED: Critics Choice Awards – Best Actress in an Action Movie
    NOMINATED: Dublin Film Critics Circle – Best Actress
    NOMINATED: Empire Awards – Best Actress
    NOMINATED: Evening Standard British Film Awards – Best Actress
    NOMINATED: Georgia Film Critics Association – Best Actress
    NOMINATED: Houston Film Critics Society – Best Actress
    NOMINATED: Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards – Best Actress
    NOMINATED: London Film Critics Circle – British / Irish Actress of the Year
    NOMINATED: Saturn Awards – Best Actress