Yesterday I saw Sicario (2015), a movie about an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt – playing Kate Mercer) who joins a task force to battle the drug violence that takes place on the USA-Mexico border. The movie is directed by Denis Villeneuve and it’s one that will leave you thinking for a while. As a first on this blog, I would like to dissect the movie (minor spoilers) and reflect on what real-life implications it has.
The first scene of the movie features the FBI team of Mercer raiding a house. The house is owned by a drug dealer who lives in America but is (of course) not directly connected to any of the illegal activity. Some 10 minutes into the movie Mercer is introduced to two ‘DOI consultants’. They plan on taking down the drug dealers by going to Mexico. All that follows can’t be described as legal and that is where the moral questions come to the surface.
Before Mercer was targeting stash houses, getting the money from the traffickers, but it seemed to have no impact. Now they are actually going into Mexico, taking down top guys and causing a stir in the whole drug cartel. Their intentions are good (more on that later), but there are shout-outs where civilians are present, innocent people might also die. And also, think of how you can get good intel on the bad guys, not only from poster boys.
So, can we play the nice guys or do we (democratic countries) have to get down into the dirt. We have laws, a Geneva convention and many other ways of protecting the rights of (all) people. But what if you can only get the information by mingling with the bad crowd (think Collin Farrell in True Detective season 2). And how much of that is happening in, for instance, The Netherlands?
I do believe that Hollywood movies have made us more receptive to the prototypical ‘hero’ that does everything to save the day (Jack Bauer, 24). And I think that in the real world there is a lot more planning, digging and ‘boring’ desk work involved. But how much do these movies and tv series influence our policy makers? If you have read a lot about torturing you know that we are doing it, it doesn’t work, and we still continue doing it. Are movies like Unthinkable (2010) shaping our beliefs that we have to become the bad guys to do good in the end?
The same goes for global terrorism, is fighting back with more force the way to go? In Homeland (season 4) an extremist man says something like “give me one drone strike [on my people] and I will give you 100 willing suicide bombers”. Recently I was, once again, blown away by a podcast by Dan Carlin (Common Sense, episode 299). In this episode, he argues that we are fighting a war of ideas, not weapons. I already (kinda) knew this, but he words it so wisely, that you start to wonder, aren’t we also fighting the war of ideas at home (e.g. against populistic ideas)?
Sicario is a gripping movie and will really make you think about what we (our police/other forces) are doing and what you think is the right way to go. I don’t have any definitive answers and with my 25 years of age, I think I don’t have had the time to take in the full picture. The only thing to do is keep educating ourselves, learning more about the world and enjoy our comfortable lives we have right here, right now!
ps The world is actually the safest ever, we’re getting there, merry X-mas.