23

In Sicario, the job of Matt's (Josh Brolin) task force is to:

  1. Disrupt operations for US-based drug boss Manuel Díaz, so that he'll get called back to Mexico to answer to his boss, Fausto Alarcón.
  2. Track Díaz when he goes there, so they can learn Alarcón's location.
  3. Have Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) kill Alarcón.

To achieve this, they track and freeze Díaz's bank accounts in the US, and Díaz does indeed get called back to meet with Alarcón. They track him perfectly with aerial surveillance as he drives there. End of story, right?

Yet throughout the movie, they've also been trying to find Díaz's drug tunnel under the US/Mexico border. They find it around the same time Díaz is called back.

While Díaz is driving to Mexico, the task force raids the tunnel. As planned, the task force draws fire, which lets Alejandro slip through the tunnel to Mexico. There, he forces a Mexican police officer (and drug mule) to intercept Díaz's car on the highway. Alejandro hijacks Díaz's car, has him drive to Alarcón's house, and Alejandro does his deed.

My question is: Why was the tunnel ever important?

They've already disrupted Díaz's operations, and he's already on his way to meet Alarcón, so it's not that. They're not really interested in arresting drug mules or confiscating anything. I doubt they're even interested in shutting down the tunnel; they've got their eyes on a much bigger target. They just kill everyone in the tunnel and high-five each other. And for some reason it's very important that this happens at the same time Díaz is driving to meet his boss.

Yes, they use the tunnel to get Alejandro into Mexico, but this seems like a crazy way of doing that. Heck, they just drove to Mexico earlier in the film. Sure, that was in five big trucks with some US Marshals and Special Forces and a Mexican police escort, but I'm sure they could also manage something a lot more subtle. I don't think the CIA would have too much trouble getting a Mexican guy into Mexico.

And yes, using the tunnel allows Alejandro to hijack the police officer's vehicle, as the guy is right by the exit of the tunnel. But that's happenstance. The officer is just a random drug mule making a delivery. Could've been anybody.

Of course it's fortunate that he's in a police cruiser, since Alejandro uses it to get Díaz to pull over, but that just seems like improvisation on Alejandro's part. It even involves the police officer actually acting like a police officer making a traffic stop, not a drug mule meeting his boss. Not that the mule knows who Díaz is, or Díaz knows him; they're on vastly different levels in the hierarchy. So it's not like this particular officer is "their ticket in" or something. His association with the cartel doesn't enter into it at all.

It just seems like it'd be a lot simpler to track Díaz's car all the way to Alarcón's location. They've got drones and cameras trained on it all the way it seems. So why not just have Alejandro on stand-by in Mexico? Once they know where Alarcón is, he can strike. By car-jacking Díaz, they risk him fighting back, getting away, alerting someone, or simply driving Alejandro somewhere else entirely.

It's one thing for Díaz to play right into their hands (even driving during the night when the tunnel raid, the hijacking, and infiltrating Alarcón's compound are all more feasible). But then it seems they just turn around and jeopardize the whole operation.

15

It is a distraction to support a covert entry into Mexico

It seems like overkill for Alejandro to use the tunnel rather than just going into Mexico via some simpler, normal route. The point of making a covert entry is that the CIA don't want to be seen to have any involvement with the killing and the killer.

If Alejandro had entered normally, his presence is Mexico would be known to many risking revealing the link to the CIA. Perhaps a different covert method could be chosen, but this one has the benefit of being a very loud and visible distraction to the very people who need to be distracted. And the timing is not happenstance; it is designed to allow Alejandro to subvert the trip being made by Díaz to both locate and gain entry to the Alarcón household.

The nature of the operation helps avoid warning the organisation beforehand and denying them a clear link to the killer afterwards.

  • 1
    It may just be that: Covert entry. But it just seems backwards. Having Special Forces guys raid a tunnel says "CIA", doesn't it? And if the raid went south (no pun intended) it'd be even worse. I'd think the clandestine option would be for Alejandro to get to Mexico quietly. He's a Mexican operating solo in Mexico, so the CIA's covered. But having a Delta team insert him runs counter to that. And going loud might alert Alarcón/Díaz that it's not just about frozen bank accounts when they hear about it. And if they don't hear about it, what was the point? But you may be right; just a bad plan. – Flambino Dec 24 '15 at 10:54
  • @Flambino Alejandro does achieve a quiet entry. He achieves it because the distraction is loud. Nobody even notices he has gained entry and, as a direct result, he is able to accomplish his mission. – matt_black Dec 27 '15 at 1:59
  • 1
    I do see what you're saying, and it does seem like that's the right answer. I'm just thinking what if the tunnel guys get the word out before being killed, and the Díaz/Alarcón meeting gets called off because of it? Or the aftermath: The cartel finds its leader(s) dead shortly after a military-style raid on their tunnel and a US crackdown on their finances. The cartels'll put 2 and 2 together. Yes, the CIA still has deniability, but they'd have that too if Alejandro travelled there with a fake beard and passport. Movie-wise it makes for more action, but it seems like terrible plan. – Flambino Dec 27 '15 at 2:50
  • Good answer, it gives them plausible deniability of having anything to do with Alejandro and the Alarcon assassination. – sanpaco Jan 7 '16 at 21:36
7

The CIA chose the tunnel to create a narrative the female lead, Emily Blunt, could accept without a sense of inconsistency and incompleteness, and therefore avoid her raising red flags. You can see this is the case because Matt (male lead, CIA guy) told her she went down the tunnel and saw something she wasn't supposed to see. And, of course, having seen a murder and an abduction (Del Toro shooting a mule and kidnapping the fake cop), she become totally uncomfortable and immediately vowed to "talk" and "tell everyone". So, the tunnel attempted to achieve two objectives: putting a pretty bow on all the events Blunt saw throughout the movie, and inserting Del Toro. The objective of putting a bow on it for Blunt was not achieved. I agree it would have been cleaner to separate the objectives of pacifying Blunt and inserting Del Toro, but perhaps that's not how Hollywood works.

  • It's been a while since I watched the film, but I believe Blunt's character is sold on the idea of "going after kingpins" - like Alarcón - and making a difference instead of going after the lower-ranking guys. So why raid a random tunnel? I'm not sure she even learns of the plan before the last moment. Besides, Matt flat out tells her that she's only there so they can pretend it's all a (legal) FBI operation, not an illegal CIA op (since the CIA can't operate domestically). They just don't seem very concerned with placating her or putting on a show... – Flambino Sep 28 '16 at 13:46
5

The answer is very simple. If they would enter Mexico like they did the first time it would be noticed by the cartel, putting the head boss on alert mode. So probably Diaz would be called off, or it would be impossible to get to the boss.

This way they did it all at once simultaneously, which was impressive if you ask me :).

3

I think the purpose of raiding the tunnel was to create a diversion. There were two distinct paths in the tunnel and Matt specifically chose to the pursue wrong path and exchanged fire with the Alarcón's men. To Alarcón this wouldn't seem like a threat and he wouldn't make any attempt to run.

Also, all the shooting would draw any of the remaining Alarcón's men into the tunnel giving Alejandro cover.

  • It's true that they talk about creating a distraction, but I understood that to mean "a distraction that'll let Alejandro slip through." They talk of drawing the fighters away from Alejandro, etc.. And it works great for that. But still, why is he slipping through the tunnel when he could presumably get to Mexico much easier? As for Alarcón, he's far, far away in his huge house. He's a drug lord, not a lowly mule near the border. He may get news of it, of course, but if the idea was to make him feel safe, it'd be easier to not go near the tunnel at all, I'd think. – Flambino Dec 23 '15 at 11:44
2

The reason for the tunnel was to make it look legal in the FBI eyes... She was never supposed to know about the assassination of the 2 drug lords. That's why he said you went down the wrong tunnel. She wanted to do everything by the book, and his mission from the President was to shut it down by any means. Don't make a mess.... That's why she went back to her boss. and she told him the BOUNDARY HAS BEEN MOVED.

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0

My theory is the tunnel scene has more to do with the craft of making a good movie than building a coherent plot. The makers clearly wanted to build up to a loud and chaotic battle scene that seemed like a climax. I would correct one part of your analysis: "I don't think the CIA would have too much trouble getting a Mexican guy into Mexico." Alejandro was Colombian. When he entered Mexico, he was suspected (on sight) of being part of the Medellin cartel.

  • 1
    I'm almost positive Alejandro's Mexican. He was called "Medellín" because that who's interests he serves. But his motivation is revenge on Alarcón: Alarcón killed his family because Alejandro was a prosecutor (in Juarez, I believe) and threatening their business. He's Mexican, but has become a mercenary for the Medellín cartels (and the CIA). I may be misremembering but his backstory's all in the movie, and I'm pretty sure that's how it goes – Flambino Sep 13 '16 at 16:05

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