Is 'Sicario' Based On A True Story? The New Emily Blunt Thriller Raises Some Intense Questions

The new Emily Blunt movie Sicario (out Sept. 18) is a thriller about the battle against drug cartels at the U.S./Mexico border. Blunt stars as an FBI agent named Kate Macer who, while leading a dangerous anti-cartel mission, begins to question the tactics and underlying motivations of her own employer and government. Macer's story seems incredibly genuine — more than once in history has a citizen been forced to reexamine their own values compared to those of their government. In addition, the war against drugs frequently crops up as a news item. So is Sicario based on a true story?

Although many aspects of the film feel painfully real, the movie comes from a fictional script written by Taylor Sheridan. The actor-turned-screenwriter told the Los Angeles Times that he wanted to explore how the notions right and wrong can become blurred, challenging the concept of morality as a black-and-white principle. This is a theme that director Denis Villenueve has explored in previous films, namely Incendies in 2011 and Prisoners in 2013. It is also a common theme in movies surrounding the drug trade, of which there have been plenty. There have also been many drug-related movies that have referenced real events and people — many moreso than Sicario. Here are some crime and narcotics movies that also have traces of real life:

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Sicario co-star Benicio Del Toro won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in this film, which presents the viewer with a look at the drug trade (and the risks, sacrifices and consequences of involvement in it) from multiple perspectives.

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This adaptation of Bruce Porter's 1993 book stars Johnny Depp as George Jung, a cocaine smuggler in the 1970s and '80s who gained everything he ever wanted from the drug trade, and then lost it all. The film has become a cult classic despite initially receiving mixed reviews.

Escobar: Paradise Lost

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Benicio Del Toro also appears in this film, in which Josh Hutcherson plays a young man who falls in love with a girl only to discover that she is the niece of the notorious Pablo Escobar. It's a fictional plotline, but Escobar was an actual drug lord in Colombia during the second half of the 21st century.

Movies about the drug trade can be a tricky topic for filmmakers because of the temptation to either glamorize the subject matter or to adopt an all-or-nothing mindset in regards to the representations of good and evil. Sicario avoids these mistakes and instead presents the viewer with a storyline that, much like real life, is just not that simple.

Image: Lionsgate