Sicario Paints a Grim Picture of the Drug War in this Country
Kate Macer (Blunt) is a cop in Phoenix who leads a kidnap response unit for the FBI. As the film kicks off, Kate’s team is performing a raid on a known drug den in nearby Chandler, only things go horribly wrong when they inadvertently uncover a bomb that kills a couple of her agents. A closer examination of the home finds dozens of bodies stuffed in the walls of the house that they just raided. From there, Kate is recruited to work on a special-ops team led by Matt Graver (Brolin) of the CIA. Graver is part of a unit that is on special assignment for the Department of Defense that is hunting down the drug dealers that were occupying the house Macer’s unit just raided.
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After the raid goes south (when an outbuilding detonates killing her fellow agents) Macer and her second-in-command are pulled into a meeting with their superiors as well as a group of CIA agents, including Matt Graver (Brolin) who has a somewhat less than legal methodology of approaching and dealing with drug dealers. Macer is informed that her presence is requested to join an inter-agency task force to help cripple the cartel by partnering up with a Delta Force team of commandos so as to take down the cartel by entering Mexico and extraditing of its main players that had been captured by the Mexican authorities, Guillermo Díaz (Edgar Arreola) who is second in command of the cartel subordinate only to his brother Manuel Díaz (Bernardo Saracino), the nominal head of the cartel.
Everything goes South
It is Graver’s intent to eviscerating the cartel by decimating the inner workings of the organization by using Guillermo, to get to his brother, and bring down the drug lord Fausto Alarcón (Julio Cedillo). Against her better judgment (and with serious reservations) Kate does agree to the assignment because she convinces herself that the team’s mission will be more effective in ending the drug trade in the U.S. than the piecemeal work that she had been previously doing with the kidnap response unit. According to her supervisors Macer was tapped for the assignment due to her knowledge of tactical procedures. At first, the team’s mission appears to be above board, but as she gets drawn deeper and deeper into the mission, Macer begins to worry about not only the mission’s objectives, but its practices as well.
The Darkness of it all
One of the individuals on their team is a mysterious Hispanic man who is introduces as Alejandro (Del Toro), Macer doesn’t fully trust Alejandro as she he seems dark, brooding, and potentially damaged goods. As stated the deeper Macer gets involved in the team’s inner workings comes to believe that they are not quite they appear to be. In fact, she perceives that many of the actions conducted by the team are not quite above board or legal — despite the end goal being as she knows it to be. Still largely in the dark and only given information on a need-to-know basis, against her better judgment, Macer decided to stay with the team if only to discover all that she is not told while still believing in the end goal. She may have changing or at least mixed emotions as she learns more and more about what is going on, including the specific reason why she was recruited.
The raw face of the Drug War
From Bad to Worse
While Macer is no stranger to strategy, tactics, and well gunfire (in the opening moments of the film she quite handily takes out one of the kidnappers), she is totally unaccustomed to the para-military shoot-first tactics of the CIA Wolf team, and she is completely uneasy by a shootout that takes place in stalled traffic at the Mexican/U.S. border while bringing Guillermo across the border. Her unease grows as she gets dragged deeper into the case and the motivations and actions of the CIA team grow increasingly muddy. This is not quite her style of law enforcement and she is not happy as to having been leveraged into participating in these actions.
Stopping the Drug War
Not Everyon is on the Same Page
With the increased militarization of local police forces, the increase in drug trafficking and the power and ruthlessness of the cartels the CIA insists that this is the future of the drug war in this country but Macer isn’t sure that she wants to be part of the proceedings, no matter how deeply she is being drawn into them. Meanwhile Alejandro is clearly on a mission of his own (we come to learn that his wife and children were killed by the drug kingpin) and he is more about revenge than in the objectives of either the CIA or the FBI. Ultimately the film paints a dark portrait of what law enforcement and criminals have evolved into in this country, and while not a pretty picture, it is a powerful one, and one well worth seeing.
The Definition of the Word "Sicario"
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.
“I Go Where I’m Sent.”
© 2016 Robert J Sodaro