The drug war on the US – Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) reteams with the mercurial Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro).
The first Sicario set a high bar for anything that followed in its footsteps. Directed and shot by the impeccable pairing of Denis Villeneuve and recently Oscar-knighted Roger Deakins, Sicario was a thriller which outlined the American/Mexican relationship with drug cartels entirely void of morals and a film that gripped pretty much in its entirety, that played out with a consistent impending threat and left the viewer with some nervousness about what unpleasant event was about to occur next.
Sicario 2 sees several key members of cast returning, particularly Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, playing FBI Agent Matt Graver and Alejandro Gillick, as an independent operative. Crucially though, Emily Blunt was pivotal to the first, her vulnerability, against all the violence and machismo in the original film was key to making it so enjoyable, which was lacking here.
The first act moves along nicely, presenting us very quickly with a brutal ISIS terror scene, shocking you out of any comfort you might have acquired whilst sitting in the cinema. A mother visually pleads with a terrorist and tries to marshal her son out of a supermarket as a terrorist standing in front of her sets off an explosive device. Enter Brolin and Del Toro’s who believe that the Mexican drug cartels are smuggling Isis operatives across the border.
As the film moves it becomes clear this is a very different film to the original Sicario. It is not designed to move us necessarily on from there. Its purpose is, it seems to take the Sicario ‘brand’ to a different place, one that is more action focused, and slightly less cerebral than the first. It is still a very good film and deserves to succeed, I’d happily recommend it to anyone and it stands alone from the first, so you don’t need to have seen that to enjoy it.
The production values are high, Stefano Sollima (producer) has done a very good job here, Dariusz Wolski (director of photography) provides us with an excellent visual experience, making good use of the Mexican desert and urban scapes. All accompanied by a throbbing soundtrack that whilst effective is overwhelming after a while. However, the direction and photography in the first was so very good that this film would have struggled to compete on that front.
Sicario 2: Soldado is a very worthy, if different follow up to the first outing, lacking the continuous and unnerving tension that made it so compelling (and minus Emily Blunt), a film reflecting and very much self-aware of the political environment found in Trump’s United States.