SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO
Director: Stefano Sollima
Screenwriter: Taylor Sheridan
Benicio Del Toro
Country: USA, Italy
Runtime: 122 mins.
Australian Release Date: 28 June 2018
Previewed at: Backlot Studios, Perth, on Monday 25 June 2018.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a sequel of sorts to Denis Villeneuve's terrifyingly brilliant 2015 film Sicario. Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro reprise their roles for this outing but Emily Blunt hasn't returned and, behind the scenes, Villeneuve has been replaced by the Italian director Stefano Sollima but at least Taylor Sheridan is back as scriptwriter. One of the highlights of the original film was the eerie score by the late, great composer Jóhann Jóhannsson but his absence has been acknowledged by fellow Icelandic composer Hildur Gudnadóttir and the film is dedicated to Jóhannsson’s memory. Fittingly, one of his most memorable tracks from the first film is used again here.
The action is once more set around the US/Mexico border and involves drug cartels but this time the loot isn't cocaine and marijuana but people. It seems that since more than 20 US states have legalised or decriminalised dope there's more money to be made smuggling people across the border and because the cartels control the trafficking routes they've simply adapted their business model. This much is true. The fiction (or is it? Cue ominous music) is that, to disrupt this trade in humanity, the US Defense Secretary (Matthew Modine) unleashes black ops CIA guy Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to start an internecine war between the cartels. He hooks up again with his old comrade-in-arms Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro) and some of the crew he worked with before, including Steve Forsing (Jeffrey Donovan), and they hatch a plan to kidnap the daughter of a cartel leader (Isabela Moner). The idea is to make it look like the work of a rival gang and, voilà, a war is started. So far, so good, but of course things go awry and unintended, very bloody, consequences occur and Alejandro gets left deep in cartel territory with the girl.
For the most part Sicario: Day of the Soldado works well, although it lacks that foreboding sense of dread that Sicario had in abundance. There's plenty of shoot ‘em up action though and there are many times when lines are crossed between the CIA, the Mexican police and the cartels. It's a murky world we're in and the distinction between good and evil is as porous as the border seems to be. Sheridan's scripts for the two Sicario films, Wind River and Hell or High Water, all deal with the nuances of law enforcement to some degree and ask questions about taking the law into one's own hands, either by the state or by individuals. In this case, Sheridan says “I would say if Sicario is a film about the militarization of police and that blending over, this is removing the policing aspect from it. Does that make sense?... Unfortunately, there is still much to mine in this world and explore creatively. People are gonna think I have like a crystal ball - I don’t, but the current political climates are oddly timely to what Soldado confronts.” That's certainly true, given the gestation time of movies from the writing of the screenplay to final wrap. Considering that President Trump's fixation on the Mexican border and with refugees from South and Central America are in the news on a daily basis right now, Sicario: Day of the Soldado couldn't be more prescient.