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:
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.
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
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.