Can ‘Sicario’ make an awards season run?

Watch interviews with Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro and more
Emily Blunt in 'Sicario'

When “Sicario” debuted at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival this past May it received positive notices, but I had a funny feeling it would be better received on this side of the Atlantic (Sicario Review).  Fast forward four months later, it screens in Toronto and – boom – a new wave of praise for stars Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, cinematographer Roger Deakins and director Denis Villeneuve.  Still, is it a real awards player or will it fall to the wayside like Villeneuve’s initially hyped “Prisoners” two years ago?

Critically, “Sicario” currently has a stellar 82 on Metacritic.  Comparably, “Black Mass” has a 68, “Steve Jobs” an 84, “The Danish Girl” a 65, “Room” a 74, “Carol” a 98 and current Best Picture semi-frontrunner “Spotlight” an 81.  It’s worth nothing besides “Black Mass” most of those films are just being judged on 10 or less major reviews. “Sicario’s” is based on a consensus-making 32 reviews so far. So, while there are certainly a number of other major limited and wide releases on the way the Lionsgate flick stands a good chance of being one of the best reviewed films of the year.

That acclaim is one reason that “Sicario” earned the top per screen so far this year, $66,881 per, when it opened in limited release on just six screens last weekend.  The studio is sticking to the limited release plan until next Friday when it expands nationwide opposite Ridley Scott’s crowd-pleasing “The Martian.”  If “Sicario” can eventually get to $50 million domestic or so it stands a great chance of being remembered when guild and Academy voters submit their ballots at the end of the year.

The movie’s best chances at a nomination are with Benicio Del Toro for Best Supporting Actor (a category he won in 2001 for “Traffic”) and Roger Deakins for Cinematography (a category he’s been nominated and quizzically never won 12 times previous).  There are also opportunities in Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Editing, Original Screenplay (weaker field than normal) and Best Actress for Blunt.  The latter is probably a reach for Oscar considering how competitive the category is this year, but don’t discount a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress- Drama.  Blunt is a favorite with HFPA having earned five nominations and a win for the TV movie “Gideon’s Daughter.”

If the movie is going to resonate anywhere with voters, however, it may be with its subject mater. “Sicario” centers on the never-ending drug war that festers on the U.S.-Mexico border.  Back in May, Villeneuve and Lionsgate had no idea how prominent the immigration issue across the border would be in the current  presidential election.  The no-win situation the film depicts may stick with voters more than some of their competitors are counting on.

Whether you’ve seen the film or not (and you should), check out the following interviews I conducted with Blunt, Del Toro, Villeneuve and Josh Brolin while in Cannes.  Lionsgate has also released a short featurette on the power of the Cartels that you can also find below.

Do you think “Sicario” can make a dent this awards season?  Share your thoughts below.

“Sicario” is now playing in New York and Los Angeles. It expands nationwide on Oct. 2.


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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios, has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times and co-founded HitFix, Inc. serving as its first Editor-in-Chief and President. Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.

Awards Campaign provides commentary and insight on the movie industry. It's also the current online home of Gregory Ellwood, an industry veteran who has covered the movie business and Oscar campaigns for over a decade. For more information including partnerships and advertising opportunities please E-mail