Let’s be honest: we, as the cinema-going collective, breathed a long sigh of trepidation at the news of a sequel to 2015’s Sicario, more so than perhaps any of the other follow-ups that have come our way in renegade since. Masterfully executed by Denis Villeneuve before he stepped over to the world of aliens and renegade robots, the original was a sweaty, pulsating thriller fuelled by three brilliant performances, Taylor Sheridan‘s politically-charged screenplay, and Roger Deakins‘ magic touch which as its own entity was almost perfect. Still, here we are again, loading up once more for another go-round that feels even timely than before.
Oh how things have changed in the three years since the original and if we needed reminding that the world has gone to hell and back in recent times, Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado (or simply Soldado) has got us covered. Beginning with a truly ballsy opening salvo that would be immensely shocking if we hadn’t been desensitised to seeing such things as “the norm”, the fictional POTUS has informed his Secretary of State that all drug cartels are to now be treated in the same way as terrorist groups – eradication. Re-enter Josh Brolin‘s Matt Graver who is chosen to help them achieve their new goals. His plan: engineer a war between the cartels by kidnapping the daughter of one of the bosses (Isabelle Moner) with the help of “Sicario” Gillick (Benicio del Toro). Sadly, unlike the kevlar that the military shroud themselves in before going to war, it’s hardly bulletproof.
Filmmaker Stefano Sollima (Gomorrah, Suburra) steps into the fold behind the camera for this one and his brilliant record of incendiary, no-holds-barred direction made him a perfect choice. And indeed he delivers some beautifully choreographed set-pieces – notably some of the aerial shots and those from the inside of the Humvees as some characters take in the shock of the bullets flying around them – all of which keep the propulsive plot driving forward with Brolin and Del Toro front and centre doing what they do best and while both have certainly been better, even “good” performances from the two are better than most.
Underneath that, however, is a morally askew narrative that, in conjunction with the basis of the story, leaves one feeling even angrier and conflicted as ever about the state of not just US/Mexican relations but that of the entire globe and the moral choices made on our behalf – violence breeds a violence here that’s more terrifying than anything we have seen over the last few decades and beyond.
It’s a truly frightening state of affairs and screenwriter Sheridan does little to shy away from such things (why would he?) but you wonder if things could have been done with a little more aplomb.
All in all, Sicario 2 is something of a mixed bag that gets by as a recommendation, just, thanks to its sharp action and nerve-jangling tension, particularly in the first hour, as well as Brolin and Del Toro’s supreme charisma. Just expect to come out angrier and than you did going in.
Scott J.Davis | [rating=3]
Crime, Drama | USA, 2018 | 15 | 29th June 2018 (UK) | Lionsgate Films UK | Dir.Stefano Sollima | Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener, Matthew Modine