It is the juxtaposition between Josh Brolin’s Matt Graver and Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro which provides that all important sense of humanity and backbone throughout Sicario 2: Soldado.
There is a cloying and claustrophobic sense of dread which runs through this intense piece of cinema, raising the bar on Denis Villeneuve’s original. Mexican cartel wars are no longer about drugs but the trafficking of people through police lines onto US soil. Vast sums of money change hands daily as illegals are smuggled over the border while casualties and collateral damage are commonplace. For Sicario 2 director Stefano Sollima and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan the focus is on Josh Brolin’s Matt Graver and Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro as their story plays out.
What becomes apparent immediately is that this is a continuation rather than something new. Any sense of allegiance that may have existed between Graver and Alejandro is tenuous at best while both actors stand toe to toe in every scene giving it gravitas. Del Toro has really gotten under the skin of this man and his sense of palpable loss, white knight mentality and ruthless violence makes him a conundrum. Brolin similarly gives Graver a layered sense of self, torn between doing his duty and doing what is right. It is ultimately the juxtaposition between these two men which provides that all important sense of humanity and backbone throughout.
As with the original, Sheridan works off a narrative structure which interweaves stories that all ultimately come to a head. Matthew Modine and Catherine Keener provide solid support in potentially functional roles, while those sun drenched vistas add an extra level of realism. Violence in the main remains contextual and never without consequence, giving Sicario 2 further substance beyond the performances. The mantle therefore gets carried a fair distance by Sollima and Sheridan in a set up to tie off the trilogy should our principals be interested.
High octane gun fights, hand held invasive night raids and desert plains rushing by beneath police helicopters give everything a sense of urgency, while the devil is in that dialogue. As an audience member what comes through most strongly here remains the futility of battling slickly operated, well financed smuggling operations in the world such as it is. People will continue to make that crossing, there will always be others prepared to take risks and in the middle will be those cartels. Opportunists living inside an armour plated moral vacuum.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Stefano Sollima
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Catherine Keener
Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado was released on UK DVD and Blu-ray on October 29, 2018.