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Sicario: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Sicario (2015) movie poster Sicario

Theatrical Release: September 18, 2015 / Running Time: 121 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Denis Villeneuve / Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Cast: Emily Blunt (Kate Macer), Benicio Del Toro (Alejandro Gillick), Josh Brolin (Matt Graver), Victor Garber (Dave Jennings), Jon Bernthal (Ted), Daniel Kaluuya (Reggie Wayne), Jeffrey Donovan (Steve Forsing), Raoul Trujillo (Rafael), Julio Cesar Cedillo (Fausto Alarcon), Hank Rogerson (Phil Coopers), Bernardo Saracino (Manuel Diaz), Maximiliano Hernández (Silvio), Kevin Wiggins (Burnett), Edgar Arreola (Guillermo), Kim Larrichio (Silvio's Wife), Jesus Nevarez-Castillo (Eliseo), Dylan Kenin (Delta Leader)

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Sicario is the third American film in as many years for French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve, who put himself on the map with his Middle Eastern drama Incendies, a 2011 Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, captured moviegoers' attentions with 2013's dark mystery Prisoners and, to a lesser degree,
2014's trippy limited release Enemy. Sicario should fall between the two in terms of commercial appeal. This drama about the War on Drugs is an action movie with star power, though Villeneuve's artful ways could have hindered the commercial prospects of this fall theatrical release that opened small and expanded nationwide.

Building upon the action résumé that she developed in well-received science fiction movies, Emily Blunt fills the lead role of Kate Macer. A Phoenix-based FBI agent who specializes in perilous kidnapping rescues, Kate opens the film in action, coolly navigating a raid on a Chandler, Arizona home where nearly 50 dead bodies are discovered in plastic bags inside the walls. The deceased are casualties of drug cartels which have expanded north well past the US-Mexican border. Kate's fine work on that scene along with her years of spotless service earn her a recommendation for a position on an interdepartmental task force.

Volunteering as required, Kate soon finds herself on a private jet that is not really headed for El Paso, Texas as stated, but Juárez, Mexico. She is accompanied by two men: her laid-back new supervisor Matt (Josh Brolin), whose Department of Defense affiliation she doubts, and the quiet, worldly Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), whose credentials are closely guarded and whose power seems potentially infinite.

"Sicario" stars Emily Blunt as Kate Macer, an FBI agent who volunteers for an interdepartmental task force to deal with US-Mexican drug trafficking.

Down in Mexico, where nude, mutilated bodies hang from bridges downtown, Kate discovers just about anything is fair game in this war: from taking out armed men in the middle of a traffic jam to torturing suspects. Kate and her less experienced, less welcome FBI partner (Daniel Kaluuya) are not convinced they are cut out for this work or that they are even doing the right thing. This task force's methods are a far cry from the FBI's by-the-book procedures and their operations make this about the most dangerous job imaginable.

Villeneuve once again employs the techniques that have distinguished his previous films. The director is big on developing atmosphere and allowing it to grow at its own pace. There are many shots where we tag along with Kate and the others in silence, anxieties of the unknown obstacles to come developing in us at the same time they are festering inside our hardened, baggageless heroine.

Blunt is great in the film's biggest role. There are few action movies with female lead characters and even fewer where that isn't some calculated design or "girl power" selling point. Blunt's part was apparently nearly rewritten for a man. The actress demonstrates that wouldn't have been wise. Even though there are probably few, if any, FBI agents with her looks, you buy Blunt as a woman of action married to her job. Her American accent is flawless and the performance recalls Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs more than Milla Jovovich or Angelina Jolie in their less than intellectual action vehicles.

Benicio Del Toro plays Alejandro, a mysterious ally to Kate in the war on drug cartels.

Sicario comes close to losing you with its muddled twists and misdirects. This intense film takes its anything-can-happen attitude to heart and sells it well. At any point in time, even the most developed of characters could die or reveal their allegiances or motives to be entirely different than what you believed.
You wouldn't really question it, either, knowing the stakes and that Villeneuve has repeatedly taken delight in subverting expectations.

The film is nicely photographed by Roger Deakins, a 12-time Oscar nominee who earned Prisoners its only Academy Award nomination but is still waiting to enter the winner's circle despite decades of commendable work for the Coen Brothers and other respected filmmakers. Sicario has remained in the conversation for awards season enough to still figure as a longshot contender in a number of Oscar categories. Cinematography seems like the most likely area of recognition, since the film is vying for an award in that field from various organizations. The lack of widespread support from awards that have announced their nominations suggests Sicario would probably narrowly miss the major Academy Award categories, though it's not out of the realm of possibility that both Del Toro and Blunt sneak into the supporting actor and lead actress categories, respectively. Blunt has built up enough goodwill since her breakout role in The Devil Wears Prada nine years ago to feel overdue for her first Oscar nod.

Sicario marks a promising screenwriting debut for Taylor Sheridan, an actor you might know from his recurring roles on "Sons of Anarchy" and "Veronica Mars." Sheridan's second script, the Texas crime drama Comancheria, is already being filmed with a cast that includes Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges.

Sicario proved to be a pretty formidable draw in theaters, grossing $46.8 million domestically and another $33.6 million from foreign territories on a production budget of just $30 million. Lionsgate recently released the movie to home video in a DVD + Digital and the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here.

Sicario: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: Dolby TrueHD 7.1/Atmos (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service, Late Night Optimized English)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD + Digital ($29.95 SRP) and on Instant Video


Sicario offers as many technical thrills as dramatic ones. The Blu-ray's 2.40:1 presentation is crisp and sharp, showcasing the compelling compositions we've come to expect of a Denis Villeneuve film. The default soundtrack, a Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 mix, also commands notice with its enveloping sound design and fine distribution of unusual score. The infrequent Spanish dialogue is translated by burned-in English subtitle.

Director Denis Villeneuve discusses making "Sicario." A behind-the-scenes featurette shows the cloudy dusty process of filming in Mexico.


The Blu-ray, but not the DVD, is equipped with four substantial topical making-of featurettes, all of which are in HD.

"Stepping Into the Darkness: The Visual Design of Sicario" (16:46) discusses the look and feel of the film and its depictions of real contemporary issues.

"Blunt, Brolin & Benicio: Portraying the Characters of Sicario" (14:35) contemplates the three leads of the film, both in terms of the actors' work and the figures they play.

"A Pulse from the Desert: The Score of Sicario" (6:19) turns our attentions to the distinct compositions of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who along with Villeneuve reveals some of the thinking and instrumentation that shaped the droning music.

"Battle Zone: The Origins of Sicario" (13:45) opens a graphic content warning and proceeds to examine the drug trafficking situation on both sides of the US-Mexico border, with input from experts and authors.

The main menu features a surveillance design which plays clips in windows that arise out of aerial satellite footage. The Blu-ray resumes unfinished playback and also supports bookmarking.

The discs open with trailers for The Last Witch Hunter, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, Heist, Mississippi Grind, and The Hurt Locker, plus a promo for streaming service Tribeca Shortlist. All six ads play from the menus' "Also from Lionsgate" listings, which is the only thing the DVD holds besides the movie. (In its defense, the disc is filled close to dual-layered capacity.) Sicario's own theatrical trailer is sadly not included here.

Joining the two uniquely labeled full-color discs, a single-sided insert supplies a code and directions for that Digital HD with UltraViolet that's included with purchase. The eco-friendly keepcase is topped by a standard slipcover featuring the same artwork below but assigning the second spine to Blunt (the first goes to Del Toro).

Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) is coy about the interdepartmental task force's missions and methods.


Sicario is an intense and powerful film experience, which grips with an unsettling atmosphere and a story where anything could happen. Another fine drama from director Denis Villeneuve, this film has more than enough of interest to recommend seeing.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray combo pack offers dynamite picture and sound plus a decent 50 minutes of fairly standard making-of featurettes. While it's nothing above and beyond the norm, this release should satisfy those liking the movie enough to own it.

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: CaptiveWar RoomThe WalkMission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Directed by Denis Villeneuve: Prisoners
Emily Blunt: Edge of TomorrowLooperInto the WoodsArthur Newman
Benicio Del Toro: TrafficInherent ViceFear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Josh Brolin: No Country for Old MenLabor DayGangster Squad
Jon Bernthal: The Wolf of Wall StreetGrudge MatchThe Walking Dead: Season 1
Zero Dark Thirty

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Reviewed January 7, 2016.

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