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Sicario 2: Soldado - Review

Sicario 2: Soldado

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

IT MAY be missing half the creative team behind the original Sicario but this equally gripping follow-up maintains the quality of its predecessor as well as the brutal efficiency.

Part of the reason for this lies in one of its returning players: screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, who once again imbues the film with a cynicism and intelligent reality befitting its grim subject matter. Yet there’s also Benicio Del Toro, once again brilliantly enigmatic as ruthless operative Alejandro, and Josh Brolin, charismatic yet conniving as his cold-dealing US government handler, agent Matt Graver.

Italian director Stefano Sollima (stepping in for original helmer Denis Villeneuve) also does an excellent job of maintaining the style of the original, while bringing some of his own touches.

Sicario 2 further grips by virtue of its proximity to current headlines and, in particular, US foreign policy in regards to immigration and terrorism. It’s fearless in its ability to tackle hot button issues and pose relevant questions concerning the confused morality surrounding immigration, its potential for exploitation and the shape-shifting nature of terrorism.

The film picks up in the wake of a US supermarket bombing, which is linked to Mexican people-smugglers and the drug cartels.

Covert ops duo Graver (Brolin) and Alejandro (Del Toro) are swiftly enlisted to help the US government incite a war between rival cartels, so long as the finger of blame or suspicion doesn’t point back to them.

But matters become complicated in the wake of the kidnapping of the precocious daughter (Isabela Moner) of a Mexican drug-lord, whose value quickly puts Graver and Alejandro on an apparently opposing course.

As with the original Sicario, Soldado operates in a moral grey zone, which asks as many questions of its viewers as it does of its principal players. But it also serves as a taut and occasionally exhilarating thriller, hitting viewers with bracingly violent bursts of action, and increasingly tense situations.

Sollima deliberately invokes the memory of Villeneuve’s original in some of the set pieces (using the border as a backdrop for another tense stand-off in one standout sequence, while opening the film with another coldly calculated explosion), but he also keeps the story and its characters moving forward.

This isn’t a mere re-tread. Rather, it’s a continually evolving scenario, much like the world events it depicts. As the game and its rules change (or rather, the priorities and/or political/business aspirations of its players), so too does the direction and loyalty of those in the foreground.

Equally, it doesn’t stand still long enough for long bursts of exposition or unnecessary character development. Sheridan’s tight screenplay has plenty to say but relies on the strength of its cast to convey the necessary emotions and internal and external conflicts. It treats its audience as adults.

The result is another extremely timely thriller that excels on so many levels. And while perhaps lacking in the overall wow factor that made the first Sicario so deserving of this sequel, Soldado still remains an essential companion that should be the new standard-bearer for this kind of genre filmmaking.

The prospect of a third film in Sheridan’s proposed trilogy remains mightily exciting.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 2mins
UK Release Date: June 29, 2018