Sicario – Dialogue That Kills, Description to Die For.

Sicario-Script-ReviewAn excerpt from my script review for Sicario which will be available 11/02/15:

4.) Dialogue and Description

Dialogue was a real issue for me.

The whole Alejandro voice-over could easily be left out. The impression it gives is more “look how smart I am” rather than presenting Alejandro as this philosophical assassin.

Next, there were just so many damn ellipses that it felt like the writer forgot to go back and correct the place holder lines.

Page 17:

Okay… If I, umm… What’s our

How is that any better than:

So what’s our

Page 25:

We’re taking this?


Really… Okay…

Seriously hope some of these issues were fixed in the film.

And more instances, but I won’t bore you with them. (Don’t believe me? Go back and count them!)

What’s funny, is my first attempt at making a YouTube video was on this same exact topic. An ellipsis should seldom be used, and then truly warranted when it is. If there’s more than three or four in a script, it may be time to rewrite what your characters are saying.

(Go easy on my voice please, lol.)

The good of the dialogue dealt mainly in subtext.

Page 22 – Matt and Alejandro hinting at going after Manuel’s brother.

Page 74 – Jennings implying that Ted’s going to cooperate because he’s a police officer being sent to prison, a venture that may not be too pleasurable.

Finally this gem…

If you try anything, if you betray
me, your daughters will burp the
semen of twenty men with their last
breath. Do you understand me?

Yes sir. Reading you loud and clear.

Moving onto the description, which was very refreshing, setting a worthy tone and presenting impressive visuals.

Page 3:

The eye blinks, and we can almost feel a breeze — we are
that close.

Same page:

…the silhouettes of TWELVE PEOPLE DRESSED FOR BATTLE, rifles at the ready, barrels pointing up…

They reach the door, a shotgun BLASTS THE HINGES. It falls
like a drawbridge.

Unsure if this was intentional, but the continued comparison to knights storming a castle was pretty cool.

Page 8 (feel the tension):

They are brought over and the lock is cut. The officer kneels down. Lifts the hatch a little. Looks under, flashlight in hand…


As the hatch is lifted — TWO HOOKS with wires are visible to our left and right. As the hatch is lifted, the wires pull tighter… We see where they lead: TWO GRENADES.

Page 15 (regarding Matt assaulting Macy with personal questions):

Who the fuck is this clown in the golf shirt?

Page 39:

Only a few more cars and the convoy is clear. But that would mean luck is on their side and luck doesn’t live on this side of the border.

Page 86:

TWO COYOTES(the animals), are stopped, staring right at us. Macy makes eye contact. They begin trotting off, never breaking eye contact with Macy, as though they are begging her to follow. While she still can…

(Justifiable use of an ellipsis there.)

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  1. In answer to your question above: —

    Okay… If I, umm… What’s our

    How is that any better than:

    So what’s our

    Here’s how it’s better: It hints to the reader how uncertain Kate Macy is about the situation she’s now in. Whereas, in your draft, we’d feel that Macy is in control. Admittedly, you could chose to say she hesitates, but I like the dialog as written — especially in a spec (which SICARIO was) , when all we have are the words on page. IMO whatever you can do to put the reader into the character’s world, or at least into the movie, the better.

    • Chris, thanks for the comment, but with how well the description was done, there’s more creative ways to demonstrate uncertainty.

      Macy’s clearly out of her league. Matt a well paid major, Macy barely making it in T ball.

      So…what’s our

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