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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: In the end of the film, Alejandro holds Kate at gun point, with her gun, to sign a paper saying that that everything done by him, Matt, the Deltas, and the rest was done by the book; when Kate initially refuses, Alejandro puts the gun under her chin, forcing her to breakdown and sign the paper. Did Alejandro put the gun to her head because he was prepared to shoot Kate if she refused again or because he wanted to give her a chance to save her own life because she reminded him of his daughter ? The fact that he could've just shot her when she refused and actually made an effort to get her to sign the paper suggests the latter theory
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  • Americans Hate Tingle: While the movie has received critical acclaim in America, it was criticized by the mayor of Ciudad Juarez himself as well as some of its citizens for its depiction of the city as crime-ridden and bleak, even calling for boycotts of the film. However, considering the movie was originally created in 2010 when the brutality of the cartel wars was Truth in Television, something even the mayor admitted, this can also be seen as making the movie an Unintentional Period Piece.
  • Anvilicious: The filmmakers really really want you to understand that they despise the drug war. In their eagerness, however, they created a film with an utterly outlandish plot: Apparently, the entire US government is on board with reviving the Medellin cartel, using their hitman to do it, and not just sanctioning but orchestrating black operations and assassinations of children on the soil of one of the USA's closest allies without the consent or knowledge of the ally's government, the torture of prisoners in acknowledged US government facilities and the torture of American citizens in the back seat of municipal police vehicles, in public, in Phoenix.
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  • Award Snub: Despite almost unanimous critical acclaim, the film only received three nominations at the Academy Awards (for Roger Deakins' cinematography, Jóhann Jóhannsson's score, and the Sound Editing). The performance by Benicio Del Toro was generally ignored, though he did manage to earn a BAFTA nomination.
  • Awesome Music: The Beast.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Kate. While everyone agrees Emily Blunt turns in a good performance, the character herself divides viewers. Some enjoy her as an Audience Surrogate amongst the morally grey characters that populate the film, showing how a normal person would react to such circumstances. Others tend to find her unbearably naive for a law enforcement official, with a Black-and-White Morality that makes little sense for an experienced officer to have.
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  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Arguably the point of the film (it's something of an Author Tract about the War on Drugs), but the only outright good characters are Kate and Reggie.
  • Foe Yay: Alejandro/Kate, at least according to the fandom. Notably, Blunt had previously acted alongside Del Toro as his love interest in the 2010 film The Wolfman, meaning this effect might have arisen out of the actors' chemistry moreso than the script.
  • Fountain of Memes: Whatever Alejandro says/does in the movie. To an extent, Matt.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • It Was His Sled: This isn't Kate's story; It's Alejandro's quest for revenge against the cartels.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Alejandro is a killer with very little morals and, depending on your interpretation, crosses the Moral Event Horizon towards the end of the film. But his backstory ( He was once a lawyer whose wife was decapitated while his child was thrown into a vat of acid on the orders of a ruthless drug lord) can make him sympathetic. Even his theme seems to imply this.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Matt Graver is a mysterious, laid-back CIA "spook" who deals in combatting terrorism and the Mexican cartels through any means necessary. As seen in the first film, Graver brings FBI Agent Kate Macer into his squad, claiming to need her expertise but truthfully just using her as a liason to allow himself to operate on American soil, later having her life threatened to get her to sign the proper papers saying that everything he did was on the up-and-up. Graver works with Alejandro Gillick in tearing apart the Alarcón cartel, claiming that it is for moral reasons when in reality, Graver just wants Alarcon eliminated so his competition can take over and perhaps be easier to talk peace with. In the sequel, Graver concocts a brilliant scheme to kickstart a war between two cartels, failing only due to corrupt police, and, going up against his superiors and calling them out for their cowardice, Graver ends up massacring an entire cartel gang to rescue the endangered Isabel Reyes to honor the seemingly-dead Alejandro. Despite his initial friendly, seemingly care-free attitude, Graver is a stone cold bastard who engages in both physical and psychological torture, murder, and illegal operations abounding to secure his goals, accomplishing nearly all through a combination of manipulation and strategic genius.
    • Alejandro Gillick is a Sicario defined by tragedy and hatred, using his skills and connections to Graver to satiate his cold-blooded desire for revenge. Once a criminal lawyer, Alejandro's family was slaughtered by Fausto Alarcón, resulting in Alejandro becoming a gun-for-hire to seek vengeance, exhibiting remarkable skills in torture and murder that help his and Graver's schemes come to fruition. Hunting down Alarcón and killing his entire security force through pragmatic tricks and stealth, Alejandro calls out Alarcón for spending his nights eating dinner with his family, even while other families are killed on the drug lord's orders. Alejandro executes Alarcón's entire family in front of him before killing the man himself to seal his revenge. Capable of forming attachments to others despite his villainy, Alejandro considers Graver a friend of sorts, and grows to care for Kate Macer in the first film and Isabel Reyes in the second, at first showing a willingness to kill either one but ultimately sparing them, even putting his life on the line to rescue Isabel from death—getting himself shot in the face in the process, an event which doesn't even hinder Alejandro from killing a cartel group who threatens him.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Kate almost crosses it when she intended to kill Alejandro after forcing her to sign a document that said what Matt and he did was "by the book", but relents when she realizes that killing him in cold blood would make her no better than him.
    • On that note, if Alejandro didn't cross the horizon already before the events of Sicario, he definitely vaulted over it when he killed the wife and kids of Fausto Alarcon before killing him.
    • Matt also crosses it (if he hadn't done it already) when he reveals to Kate that the real goal of the operation is to exercise control over the cartels and that, to achieve said goal, he has not only manipulated her to give himself an excuse to operate on American ground, but has also willingly unleashed a sicario of the Medellin cartel with a personal vendetta (that would be Alejandro) to do the dirty work, which ends up getting a lot of people killed, including two children.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Some fans actually support Matt and Alejandro's methods of battling the cartels, considering that the cartel thugs are mostly not portrayed in a sympathetic way at all and the film shows Matt and Alejandro's methods actually working. It also helps that seeing Delta Force battling cartel assassins looks really cool.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • The cartel men attempting to free Manuel Diaz's brother on the Bridge of Americas. Not only are they spotted almost immediately, but before one gangbanger can even leave his car they are swarmed instantly by the Security Detail who hilariously outgun and outnumber them. They also appear visibly nervous compared to the cool and calm Deltas and Law Enforcement agents who have their weapons trained on them while the cartel members haven't even properly drawn their own weapons. When they are given an option to lay their guns and back off, the minute one gangbanger raises his pistol they are completely lit up, with the only shots fired back are when one gangbanger gets shot and shoots into his own crew. Even a sicario disguised as a Federale who sneaks up on Kate only gets a single bullet out before she notices and headcaps him followed by some rifle fire by nearby agents. It also seemed like the gangsters in the other vehicles were only a distraction to get the CIA agents out of their vehicles while the rogue Federale came up from behind. Even with all their training and superior firepower, the only reason Kate wasn't killed was dumb luck.
    • As ruthless and effective Matt is at getting things done, he was foolish keeping Kate on after she had been identified by the very cartels they were going after when she got caught on camera in a cartel-controlled bank. His decision to let her accompany them in the tunnels also nearly derailed the mission.
    • Kate isn't blameless in this. Regardless of the legality, her not listening to (life-saving) advice and not following orders nearly gets her killed more than once.
    • Dirty Cop Ted who, despite knowing he's screwed with no legal leg to stand on, keeps blubbering about how he screwed up, making excuses, and keeps getting beat up and tortured by Alejandro instead of simply answering their questions at first.

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