Director: Stefano Sollima
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Matthew Modine, Shea Whigham
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Running Time: 120 mins
Release date: 28th June 2018
Back in 2015 came a thriller that no one was expecting would become one of the most highly respected movies of that year and, in fact, is regarded as one of the best thrillers of the 21st century. Brimming with talent, directed by Denis Villeneuve, cinematography by Roger Deakins and starring Emily Blunt, Sicario was a mature, intelligent and gripping film. Now comes Sicario 2: Soldado, minus it’s three huge talents. Yet this stand-alone film has enough going for it to keep it just as interesting.
The continuing war on drugs between the US and Mexico has grown as the cartels are now trafficking terrorists in the States. The US government want this to stop and so they hire federal agent Matt Graver to lead a mission involving starting a war between the cartels by plotting to kidnap the teenage daughter of one of the cartels and blaming the other. With the mysterious Alejandro working at his side, the men so find that the government refuse to become involved when things start to get out of hand.
Stepping ton the big shoes left vacant by Villeneuve, new director Stefano Sollima is no stranger to gang warfare after directing episodes of the TV series Gomorrah and manages to handle the material with the same level of visual flair as his predecessor. Taylor Sheridan’s script is not as complex as his original, yet there are still plenty of impressive set pieces to enjoy. None as magnificent as the terrifying car chase in stationary traffic that occurs during the original film.
The pacing and the easier to follow plotting works well and so even after the opening scenes of acts of terrorism (one almost heart-stopping in its power) you become gripped. Without Blunt’s eyes and ears for the audience (what she saw and heard she shared, which gave Sicario such a unique viewing experience) this time around we are given a straightforward narrative structure that isn’t overly complicated or contrived. The set-up (cartels sending terrorists over to America from Mexico as humans seem more of a commodity) to the plan (setting up the various cartels by kidnapping a girl and letting the family believe it was another cartel) to the finale (which has one massive misstep but this can be forgiven) all play out as a three-act journey. The middle section is brimming with action, including an attack on a convoy in the desert, are all handled brilliantly by Sollima.
What is lacking here is that we now understand. The intriguing thing about Sicario was that we never really knew what was going on. We questioned who Alejandro was and the truth about the character only came to light at the end of the film. We became, thanks to Emily Blunt’s character, just like we were thrown into this muddled war as she was and as far as a dramatic arc was concerned, it made the film stand out. This time, we don’t have that. Alejandro isn’t as mysterious and there is no need to be confused anymore.
Performances are, as you would expect, excellent. Josh Brolin, who has had a very busy year, is as cool and as smooth as he was in the first film, although there is an anger bubbling underneath. Benicio Del Toro is as bad and unforgiving here as he was in the last film, although there is an interesting twist as he forms a fatherly relationship to his kidnap victim. As the girl being held, Isabela Moner excels as does Jeffrey Donovan as a young man caught up in the cartel’s human trafficking scam.
Sicario 2 may disappoint those who loved the first film and some may find the final act just that too contrived and spoil things. For everyone else, this is a cracking, exciting and often intelligent thriller that moves at a terrific pace and is unbelievably relevant. I look forward to the continuation of this saga.