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2015 was a year of pop culture joy, but also of deep disappointment for the Complex Pop Culture squad. This week, we'll each share what was our greatest pop culture disappointment of the year.
Sicario almost tore the Complex Pop Culture squad apart, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
I had been tracking Sicario for a while before the first trailer dropped, so when it did—showcasing Emily Blunt in all her ass-kicking glory—I was super excited.
It looked like it was going to be like Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic except with a badass lady agent taking down the cartel. And the premise echoed that! An FBI agent (Blunt) gets hand-picked for a government task force to help in the intensifying drug wars at the U.S./Mexico border. Throw in a stacked cast including Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve (I had never seen any of his other films, a future problem) and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, and things were looking GOOD.
Blunt has continued to prove herself as one of the most versatile actresses working today, from her turn as bitchy assistant Emily in The Devil Wears Prada to holding her own opposite Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow. She’s continuously shined in her roles but still never had that showcase. I was convinced Sicario was it. I was prepared to be celebrating my girl’s inevitable awards sweep.
Then I saw the film.
When I stepped out of the screening, I was livid. I had just watched 121 minutes of empty, albeit beautiful, garbage. The story was messy and convoluted—yeah, it showed the war on drugs and cartels and murders, but nothing ever felt like it made any sense or ultimately ever meant anything.
And Emily, my precious Emily?
Instead of the badass agent that I had envisioned, Blunt’s Kate Macer is completely passive. And it doesn’t seem like that at first. She leads a SWAT team raid of suspected kidnappers’ house and discovers corpse upon corpse inside the walls. While Kate’s team is investigating, a shed blows up, killing two officers. It’s a mission that more than proves Kate’s bravery and talent, so she gets noticed by the right people and joins the team to hunt for the men who were responsible.
Then things shift. She (alongside her partner) joins Del Toro and Brolin on this task force, where it becomes increasingly apparent that Kate’s not being told the whole story. From there on out, Kate’s used as a pawn in their confusing fucking game of cat and mouse—the story isn’t actually hers, it’s Del Toro and Brolin’s. She’s used to bait a dirty cop, her FBI status is used to give the CIA the legal ability to operate in the U.S. borders and by the end of the film, Kate’s a nervous, shivering mess as she finds out the whole thing is a setup to return control to one single cartel, instead of a plan to actually get rid of them all. Then they threaten to kill her! Pretty shitty job, if you ask me.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so disappointed with Sicario if the movie hadn’t been sold as an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MOVIE where my girl didn’t get totally fucked over. The only credit I will give Sicario, is that it does contain one of the most breathtaking shots of the year, but that’s it.
When my esteemed colleagues, Frazier Tharpe and Brian Formo, readily agreed with me that Sicario was complete trash, I felt vindicated. Well, until positive reviews started rolling in and the rest of the PC Squad (except for Pops Culture) copped to enjoying it! I trust the judgment of the squad, so I wondered if I had somehow seen an entirely different film, but nope, we were talking about the same one. We’ve since spent many hours debating the quality of the film, and it’s almost broken the work family apart entirely. I blame you, Villeneuve.
From here on out, I’ll no longer trust the cutting of trailers (something I should have learned before), and maybe hard pass on Villeneuve’s future work, but I will support Emily Blunt until the end of time. So when Sicario hits DVD in January, in the middle of the cold Cuffing Season, and bae asks you to Sicario and chill—especially if you are a Blunt fan—say no.