Sicario (2015) – A Movie Review

Sicario is about a United States law enforcement team’s efforts to capture the head of a Mexican drug cartel.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Kate Macer (played by Emily Blunt) and Reggie Wayne are FBI agents who discover a cartel safe house in Arizona filled with corpses.  They become drawn into a task force headed by CIA Operative Matt Graver (played by Josh Brolin).  But also involved is a Mexican national, Alejandro Gillick (played by Benicio del Toro) whose precise role is unexplained.

The task force heads into Juarez, Mexico to bring into US custody Guillermo Diaz whose brother Manuel is a lieutenant in the Sonora cartel.  During the return drive a contingent of cartel foot soldiers attempts an ambush but is overwhelmed by the special forces soldiers assigned to the task force.  But Macer is troubled by the unorthodox and secretive aspects of the operation.  She surmises that Gillick is not a legitimate law enforcement agent and she suspects that the operation is really a CIA hit squad that will be violating US laws by operating in the United States.

Macer and Wayne meet a local policeman they know named Ted in a bar.  She invites Ted into her room but she discovers he’s on the cartel payroll and attempts to arrest him.  He overpowers and begins to strangle her.  But Gillick appears in the nick of time and after some “persuasion” Ted provides the task force with the names of the other American policemen on the cartel payroll.

The “interrogation” of Guillermo reveals that a tunnel is used by the Sonora Cartel and a mission is planned to capture Manuel Diaz there.  During the operation Macer witnesses Gillick executing Mexican nationals and taking a cartel-owned Mexican federale as prisoner.  When she attempts to stop him, he shoots her twice on her body armor and warns her to never point a gun at him again.

Macer is outraged by Gillick’s actions but when she complains to Graver, he warns her that the war against the drug cartels had become a real war and the CIA uses extreme tactics.  He also tells her that Gillick’s wife and daughter were executed in a horrible manner by Manuel Diaz’s boss, Fausto Alarcón.  Gillick is intent on revenging himself on Alarcón and Graver intends to use this revenge to accomplish the destruction of the Sonora Cartel.

And that’s exactly what Gillick does.  He uses the captured Mexican policeman to pull over Manuel Diaz’s car and then he uses Diaz to get himself into Alarcón’s guarded compound.  Finally he finds Alarcón eating dinner with his wife and young children.  Gillick talks about the murder of his family and then murders Alarcón’s family.  After a decent interval for his victim to suffer the loss, he shoots him too.

Sometime after this mission Gillick sneaks into Macer’s apartment and at gunpoint he orders her to sign a document confirming that Gillick’s team had followed all US laws during its mission.  At first, she refuses but when he puts the gun to her head, he tells her that to refuse would be to commit suicide.  She signs the paper.  He tells her to find a small town to live in where the law still exists.  He says, “This is a land of wolves and the wolves will kill you.”  Or something like that.

Gillick leaves and when he is across the street she comes out on her balcony with a gun.  Gillick turns to her to give her the shot but she lowers her gun and he walks away.

This movie has several problems.  The biggest one is the actress playing Macer.  She probably weighs seventy pounds sopping wet but she’s part of an assault team taking down narcotrafficantes left and right.  It’s patently absurd.  Next, the episode with Ted, the rogue cop is too contrived.  Also, Macer seems at the same time drawn to this highly unorthodox mission but also shocked to see commando operations used against foreign nationals attacking the United States.  But putting all those things aside, this is a very exciting action film.  The acting and action are highly entertaining and the plot resolution is satisfying.  I highly recommend this movie to fans of action films.

The Terminal List (2022) – A TV Review

“The Terminal List is Amazon Prime’s action thriller tv series based on Jack Carr’s 2018 novel of the same name.  It stars Chris Pratt as Navy Seal Lieutenant Commander James Reece and centers around Reece’s revenge mission to avenge the deaths of his family and comrades in arms.

I won’t put in my usual spoiler alert because I’d rather not go through the whole plot piece by piece.  I’ll just give you my reaction to the series and recommendations.

So, first off, the author Jack Carr was a Navy Seal so I guess that lends some credibility to the technical details of the show.  As far as the plot, it’s a highly charged story of wrongdoing by the rich and powerful that a few years ago I would have said was too outlandish to be true.  But now that real life government malfeasance (FBI targeting of political opponents, COVID related tyrannical actions) is standard operating procedure who is to say what’s outlandish.

The acting for the most part is very good.  There were maybe one or two scenes that didn’t seem to correspond to how I thought the characters emotional states would make them act.  But since the author probably corresponds more closely than I do to the psychological profile of the characters in the story maybe it’s my ignorance of their mindsets.

One of the plot elements involves the brain trauma that Reece is suffering from.  This leads him sometimes to slip back into old scenes in his life, sometimes at very inconvenient points in the plot.  Occasionally during the story, I thought the memory problems were a little distracting but by the end of the series I was satisfied that the plot device was justified.  It also gives us a chance to see his personal life with his murdered wife and daughter.  Now this is a difficult layer to add to a story like this.  I would say they pulled it off mostly well.  By the end of the story the character seems to have come to closure with his loss.

As far as action, there is plenty of it.  Reece and his allies do an amazing amount of damage to the people on his “terminal list.”  And there is quite a bit of brutality to his campaign.  Some of it is up close and personal.  But I would say the violence isn’t merely gratuitous but follows the plot of avenging the terrible crimes that have been committed against Reece.

I watched the show with Camera Girl.  Now she’s an action novel junkie.  She’s a big fan of Reacher and Bosch so a little violence isn’t a big deal to her.  There was one scene that she thought was a little too vicious but by the end of the series she was a big fan of the story.  So, I would recommend this series to anyone who likes the action thriller genre.  It also lacked any woke nonsense of any kind.  In that sense it was very refreshing.  I give this series a highly recommended rating.