Gender Roles - Women
Gender Roles - Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 5 Stars
Kate is a strong woman dedicated to a dangerous cause, but she also has firm morals and insists on doing things by the book. She eventually learns that she's something of a pawn in an illegal and disturbing alliance between the Department of Defense, the CIA and a mysterious vigilante from the Columbian drug cartel. But Kate doesn't play the part of the mouse as her new partners intend. She clings to her training and her ideals as she tries to claw her way out of the trap they've set for her, never giving up until the bitter end.
Gender Roles - Men: 4 Stars
Kate's partner Reggie is a supportive friend. Despite his misgivings about her new assignment, he's on-hand to assist without coming across as over-protective or condescending. Reggie only gets involved in Kate's clashes with the CIA when the tension escalates and the situation clearly calls for back-up. In the end, Reggie isn't able to save Kate anymore than she's able to save herself, but throughout the film he remains the one person she can trust.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 4.5 Stars
Kate has an unshakable sense of self-confidence that repeatedly gets her into trouble. Even when the odds are stacked against her, she tends to think that she's stronger than she is. This unyielding commitment to justice is part of what makes Kate's downfall so tragic. We believe in her just as much as she believes in herself, and we're just as crushed when she falls victim to this horrid game. But the fact that she never turns the table on Mark and Alejandro doesn't diminish Kate's heroism. If anything, it further demonizes the men who have played her.
Kate is never expected or required to use her sexuality as a weapon. She's allowed to simply be a unkempt FBI Agent, whose valued for her talents rather than her sex appeal. Reggie even gives her a friendly ribbing about her clothes and her underwear, encouraging her to reclaim whatever femininity she's lost since her divorce. Surprisingly, Kate is never really demeaned or abused on the basis of her sex. She is ultimately betrayed and violated by her new team, but she's brought down through attacks on her free will and principles rather than her body.
Plot: 4 Stars
Kate may not come out victorious in Sicario, but she's clearly our best hope for a happy ending. Throughout the film she acts and reacts exactly as we'd hope. She asks the right questions and attempts to do her job, despite her instructions to stay quiet, observe and do as she's told. From the beginning her instincts tell her that something is wrong, but she carefully balances these instincts against everything she doesn't know and her talent for self-preservation. Even when she's physically broken for the things that she's seen, she demands and accounting from those around her and insists that she'll talk. Kate's heroism isn't necessarily in taking down or exposing the illegal operation that she's wrapped up in, but in simply refusing to roll over and accept the inevitable.
Character Development: 3 Stars
Sicario doesn't dig too deep into Kate's psyche. But we do know that she has pure motivations from beginning to end. She agrees to every uncomfortable task on her new assignment in the hopes of tracking down the killers responsible for the brutal deaths she's seen in Phoenix. Her conflict with the CIA and the DOD isn't necessarily over the end game, but in how it should be accomplished. Mark has clearly bought into the idea that working hand in hand with one brutal cartel is preferable to trying to quell the turf wars between multiple cartels. Kate, on the other hand, isn't willing to align herself with one set of killers in order to take out the others.
Unfortunately, the film's strongest counterpoint to Mark's philosophy - that the Medellin cartel is just as brutal as all the others - doesn't come from Kate, but from the head of the Mexican drug cartel, just before he's killed by Alejandro. These words would've been far more powerful had they come from Kate at the height of her confrontation with Mark, and would've added just a little bit of flesh to her character.
We also know just enough about Kate's divorce and her sex life to assume that her difficult career has made her a bit lonely and hardened - but she's not so far gone that she isn't willing to reach out for warmth when she needs it. As an audience we want her to find it, and maybe even hope that someday her friendship with Reggie can evolve into something more intimate, but for the time being Kate remains more than a little weathered and alone.
Room for Improvement:
Language and Sexual Content
Violence Against Women
Language and Sexual Content: 3 Stars
Kate's one attempt at physical intimacy almost turns deadly, and in reality this scene has little to do with lust or sex at all. What's impressive about this scene is not the encounter itself, but the aftermath. Although Kate puts up a valiant struggle the moment she realizes that she's in danger, her attacker ultimately overpowers her and she is rescued by Alejandro. While Kate clearly experiences some embarrassment over the situation, her team responds as professionals and adults. Even Mark, who might be expected to make some obnoxious comment about drinking too much or keeping her clothes on, never passes judgment on the idea of a grown woman engaging in casual sex or making independent decisions about her own body and safety. Instead the focus is placed on her attacker and his ties to the cartel. Kate is able to return to work without so much as a lewd smile or gesture directed at her. Only words of support and concern.
Violence Against Women: 2 Stars
Kate is roughed up on more than one occasion in Sicario, once by a potential lover and once by one of new partners from the CIA, Mark. On both occasions, Kate instigates the violence and the men are more or less reacting to the threat she poses. The fact that Kate is a trained FBI agent adds a layer of complexity to these episodes. As an audience, we're reacting, not necessarily out of a sense of outrage that a man would get physical with a woman, but more out of concern that the bad guys are getting the upper hand. Sicario doesn't go so far as to normalize or justify this sort of violence between men and women, but it does seem to ask audiences to have a higher level of tolerance for it.
Supporting Characters: 0 Stars
Aside from Reggie, the men in Sicario are overwhelmingly selfish and cruel. At times, Alejandro may appear to be more sensitive and sympathetic than the others, but he's just as vicious as the men that he's tracking down. And by the end, he makes it clear that he won't hesitate to hurt whatever innocent soul stands between him and his revenge. This includes Kate herself.
Mark may not be as brutal as Alejandro, but he comfortably turns a blind eye to his tactics. He and his DOD team have callously decided that the war on drugs cannot be won, and that their last best strategy is to prop up one cartel against the others, establishing what he believes to be some sort of order in the drug trade. Mark is so self-righteous in his beliefs that he never stops to reflect on the consequences or the moral complexities of what he's doing, and he doesn't hesitate to pull Kate into his illegal operation in order to achieve his questionable objectives. He's heartless, he plays dirty, and he still has the nerve to think of himself as some sort of savior.
Kate Mercer is an FBI agent and tactical expert who specializes in kidnapping response and hostage recovery. After a particularly gruesome mission, Kate is recruited into an inter-agency team to track down the leaders of the Mexican drug cartel who are responsible for the rash of killings that are spilling over the border. Kate volunteers for this new assignment in order to put a stop to the drug cartel's violence, but soon finds that her new partners are unusually secretive about their operations, and that they don't always play by the rules.
Kelly is a labor law