If you are planning on seeing the movie then stop reading now, I cannot comment about the movie without revealing some of the plot. Before you go, just know that obviously Peter Svarzbein nor the Cd. Juárez mayor had seen the movie before using it for political points.
**Do not continue to read if you do not want the movie to be spoiled for you**
You have been warned, what follows next reveals some of the plot lines.
Probably the best and most appropriate line I have ever heard in a movie is; “Your American ears are going to hear things you cannot comprehend but in the end it will make sense.”
That one sentence clearly explains what the Drug War is and why it is what it is.
US citizens tend to view the world through their cultural mindset. To most US citizens, what happens beyond the US borders that does not fit neatly into the “American” way of thinking is mostly incomprehensible to most US voters. Everything must fit neatly in the box that everyone wants the “American dream.”
This became evident to me when my US friends would make comments like, but there’s no Nintendo nor a VCR, they must be poor. Meaning that poor was defined by the things in the house rather than the basic necessities like food and clothes. This is not a bad reflection upon US citizens but rather a mindset created by a media bubble that sees life through one set of eyes.
I once heard a very appropriate comment that explains this phenomena. The comment centered on the notion of why is it that the Soviets weren’t embracing freedom and capitalism after the fall of Communism. The response will stick with me for the rest of my life; “because how could you want something you have never had before?”
When you see life through one set of eyes it is very easy to lose sight of the alien dynamics that are at play.
As a Hollywood movie, with the obligatory dramatic license, the Sicario touches on this most basic fundamental reality without putting blame on the normal scapegoats; corruption, drug traffickers and international intrigue, although all play a part in the movie.
Rather, Sicario superficially reminds us that the drug war and the drug cartels do not operate in a neat package of bad versus good guys. There are many grays in between. It also touches on the multiple dynamics at play that allows the drug culture, as in money, to exist in the first place.
More importantly it clearly explains why it is that the drug war is unwinnable for either side.
At the height of the Mexican Drug War, I was explaining to anyone that asked that Mexico’s end game was not eradicating Mexican cartels but rather making it too difficult for them to continue to operate in Mexico so publicly and strongly. I tell individuals that ask me, for Mexico it is about forcing as much of the cartel activity to operate outside of Mexico. It is not about ending drug cartel activity in Mexico but rather about forcing them to move their major operations outside of Mexico.
Indications are that they have begun to operate in Central American countries and in the United States itself. They have not been eradicated but rather they have been tamed to some extent. That means that Juárez, and Mexico, for that matter are no longer the deadliest areas in the world.
I realize that this is not what most of you want to read but it is what it is. Although I can go into facts about GDPs and military expenditures versus education or infrastructure many eyes will glaze over and the message will be lost.
The sad fact is that the drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) simply have access to too much money. It is as simple as that.
The movie was good and it covered the topic as well as any movie can cover it, notwithstanding the Hollywood embellishments. After all, a movie like this costs millions to make and the tickets are sold based on blood and gore and sexy women.
What about the Juárez mayor’s call to boycott the film?
“The Beast,” as Juárez is referred to in the movie plays the part that it must because it is what it is, a city central to the drug trafficking. The movie is neither derogatory to Juárez, nor is it fair. The movie clearly embellishes the violence and the street fighting to make a point. However, and this is important, the movie does not denigrate the people of Juárez or the government.
As a matter of fact, it shows them for what they are, a people making the best of an extremely difficult situation.
The blood and gore shows the seriousness of the cartel wars.
Now here is the funny thing, the only part that El Paso plays in the movie is as a quick gateway into “The Beast,” Juárez. That is it.
Except for the shooting scene on the international bridge, that is understood to be into El Paso, there is really no reference to El Paso or violence in El Paso. The only actual violence depicted in the movie that happens on the US side of the border is in Arizona.
As a result, I am not really sure why Peter Svarzbein has a need to hold a round table discussion except to score political points through media attention.
Now let’s discuss the dramatic licenses.
A complex issue like the drug violence cannot be explained in a movie. A complex issue like the drug wars are too much for most individuals to comprehend because many of us are used to neat little sound bites delivering the important morsels of news to us.
That forces the movie to exaggerate certain things in order to make the points that it must. Explosions in Cd. Juárez were never routine nor were running gun battles that could be seen from the US side at night. However, the violence had to be explained and it just happens that explosions make the point.
Probably the most notable scene, that partly plays in some of the movie trailers, is the border bridge standoff that results in a gun fight. The fact is that a scene like that has never happened. Not because it is impossible but because in today’s electronic age with Internet, cell phones and video surveillance it would be impossible to keep it a secret, notwithstanding the funny scene where they say that “it won’t even make the El Paso newspaper.”
As many of you know, that is true, it will make all of the worldwide news media outlets before Bob Moore allows the El Paso Times to mention it.
Most movie goers will miss the obvious deficiency and that is that government officials would have made arrangements to make sure the border was open for the convoy to make it through unimpeded. Better yet, both governments would have completed the transfer via an aircraft rather than through an international bridge.
However, it was important to make the point that bureaucracy and news media ineptitude play into the problem and it was an effective way to make it.
The tunnels, the violence, the money laundry and the bureaucracy was well done.
I learned something new in the movie, and here I thought I knew a lot about the Mexican cartels. Just kidding about knowing a lot about anything. The word sicario, as many of you know, is used in Mexico for hitman. Apparently and according to the movie, it is derived from Sicarii, or “dagger-man” who attempted to expel the Romans from Jerusalem. They were Jewish, by the way.
In the case of the movie, the sicario is the main character, who is an instrument for bringing some semblance of stability to an out of control and chaotic geopolitical problem. Sadly, I believe many of the movie goers will miss that, but I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong plenty of times.
If you can handle the violence and the blood, I encourage you to watch the movie. It is entertaining and I believe it is fair to the subject, notwithstanding the Hollywood embellishments.