Benjamin Smart reviews the sequel to the 2015 action film Sicario.
Let’s be honest, Sicario (2015) was a film that never needed a sequel. It was a gritty and gorgeous take on the war on drugs that had a winning combination of being directed by Denis Villeneuve and shot by the iconic cinematographer Roger Deakins. Yet the latest entry in the series, Sicario 2: Soldado proves that there are more stories to tell in this cartel driven drama.
Josh Brolin returns as Matt Graver, a US government agent who specialises in carrying out the dirty work on behalf of his country. The story once again teams him up with Alejandero Gillick (Benicio del Toro), an undercover operative trying to hunt down the cartel responsible for the murder of his family. After a suicide bombing in a Texas supermarket, it is revealed that Mexican cartels are enabling the passage of ISIS members across the border and onto American soil.
In an effort to maintain national security, the US government hire Graver and Gillick to go undercover and deal a serious blow to the operations of the cartels by inciting an all-out gang war south of the border. As the two agents work towards unleashing chaos, a young boy (Elijah Rodriguez) is taken in by the influence of local crime lords and his path intersects with events much more than he can comprehend.
From the opening scenes, director Stefano Sollima establishes the voyeuristic brutality that is to be expected from this tale. From circling helicopters, the viewer is shown a world painted in thermal vision as migrant workers are trafficked into unfamiliar territory under the cover of darkness. From here the scale of the story balloons in comparison to its predecessor as matters of national security come into question.
"It’s almost too much"
Early on, a terrorist attack is shown in unflinching detail as bombs are detonated and civilians disintegrated. It is a subject matter that we’re no stranger to in these days, yet Soldado takes the violence further when we’re forced to witness a bomb detonating in front of a terrified mother and child. It’s almost too much.
And still I don’t think this is a case of shock tactics for the mere sake of it. The film captures the tone of a world on the brink of collapse, in which the current political climate has numbed society to the horrors taking place. With a fictionalised US government that has a striking similarity to the current Trump administration, this act of terrorism gives them an opportunity to benefit by attempting to destabilise the political balance of Mexico and its cartel culture.
Even though the scale of the story is larger than ever, Sicario 2: Soldado manages to deliver a grounded narrative that honours its predecessor whilst still managing to pack plenty of surprises. Stefano Sollima manages to channel the climate of fear and discontent currently felt by the masses into an unapologetic action drama that has a mind of its own. If the first film showed the War on Drugs in a new light, then Soldado does the same for the War on Terror.
Featured image: Twitter / @SonyPictures