Director: Stefano Sollima
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Catherine Keener
Run Time: 122 mins
Sicario 2: Soldado is the rather unexpected sequel / spin-off to Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, a film that didn’t particularly show any franchise promise but was one of the most darkest, intense films of its year. Whilst Sicario followed the journey of Emily Blunt’s FBI agent Kate Macer who was sent to help on the escalating war on drugs by bringing down a cartel leader, this film puts that film’s shadowy side character Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro in the spotlight. This seems only the best move as Del Toro putting in a barnstorming performance in the previous film. Josh Brolin also returns as the sandal-wearing, similarly shady CIA officer, Matt Graver. In this film, both Graver and Alejandro team up to bring down another cartel by falsely kidnapping his daughter and then pinning it on a rival cartel group.
Villenueve doesn’t return for the sequel as he was busy directing Blade Runner 2049 and nor does Blunt. Italian director Stefano Sollima takes the reins, who seems like a good choice after helming the intense Gomorrah. Taylor Sheridan, who continues to go from strength to strength after writing both Sicario and Hell or High Water and also directing Wind River returns to write the script. The late Jóhann Jóhannssson scored the first film which was amazing, and DOP-maestro Roger Deakins shot it but here they are replaced here by Jóhannsson’s protégé and Hildur Guðnadóttir and Ridley Scott regular Dariusz Wolski.
Sicario 2: Soldado is a masterful sequel and whilst its behind-the-camera talent may not, on paper, be quite as strong as its original, as a film I found it to be better paced and maintains its sharp focus throughout. The first film made a jarring shift in its final third, which although was satisfying, did make the film lose focus a little as the rest of the film follows Emily Blunt’s FBI agent constantly. This is an even more grimy and black picture where characters are morally and ethically bankrupt and there are multiple scenes which are very uncomfortable to watch, in particular an early scene that sets the backdrop for the rest of the film with terrorists blowing up a supermarket. Sollima’s sequel has a rousing commentary on American politics with a Trumpian-like President and the lengths and processes people go to to cross the border.
Benicio Del Toro again proves why he is one of cinema’s most underrated actors and his character shows a bit more compassion compared to the first film here but he’s still in ths mission for his own redemption. Del Toro seems to channel Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name towards the films end and his character similarly oozes coolness. The rest of the cast are all excellent as well, Brolin as expected and Isabela Moner is excellent as the kidnapped daughter who gets exposed to the horrific drug and human trafficking underworld.
Although technically, this sequel isn’t quite as strong as its original, Wolski’s cinematography is still excellent and there are some expertly paced, frenetically charged action sequences that are exhilirating. Hildur Guðnadóttir doesn’t try to emulate Jóhannsson’s score and whilst it isn’t as strong, it’s still interesting enough and fits in well with the film and she revisits Jóhannsson’s ‘The Beast’ theme at one point in the film which is well used.
Overall, despite trepidation and the weight of the first film, Sicario 2: Soldado had a tough job to impress. For this to be equal, if not slightly better than the first is an achievemt in and of itself and for virtually the entire film, I was in awe of the film. There is a slightly over-the-top plot device at the film’s end with a certain character that I didn’t initially quite buy and the film does set itself up for another sequel rather obviously, but the film had me in its wake for me to go with it. Sicario 2: Soldado is possibly the best cinemagoing experience of the year so far and a must-see.