Film Review: Sicario: Day of the Soldado

The sequel to 2015’s Sicario and the second part of a now-guaranteed trilogy, this brutally violent follow-up is just as grim and cynical, and certainly feels like a movie for The Golden Age Of Trump too, for obvious reasons.

It’s also a little strained at times and so graphically nasty you’re almost anesthetised to it all, while the absence of the first film’s star Emily Blunt (who could have brought some warmth and humour) is sorely felt, as we’re now left with a bunch of guys endlessly blowing each other to gory bits.

Director Stefano Sollima (in one of his first projects outside Italy) fills in for director Denis Villeneuve too, as that original filmmaker was too busy doing Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. While Sollima’s work is strong enough, this is still a bit murky and even plodding at times. Then again, that might have more to do with the fact that this film falls in between the stage-setting part one and the final act of part three, which means that it occasionally feels like we’re just filling in time as the cast glower at each other.

While the first film was primarily about drug cartels, this focuses instead upon human trafficking and throws in some fundamentalist terrorism too, just for good measure, in a horrific sequence where a Kansas City supermarket is targeted. When it emerges that the cartels are somehow smuggling terrorists across the Mexican border, the CIA recruits Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to help out, and he’s somewhat improbably allowed to work with former undercover operative Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) again.

These are not exactly good guys: Matt is happy to bomb a terrorist’s home to get information, while early on Alejandro shoots cartel members dead in the middle of the city in broad daylight and his expression barely changes.

The idea is that a ‘false flag’ operation is to be carried out where Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner), the teen daughter of a big-time baddie, will be ‘abducted’ and yet another war between the cartels will kick off. However, after one of several massacres, the cover is blown (it’s hard to disguise several dozen dead cops) and the Mexican government is virtually calling for the impeachment of the POTUS, a development that almost feels like a joke in this po-faced pic.

Matt softens a little while Alejandro is more sympathetic towards Isabel, once they realise that she’s likely to be murdered if she returns to Mexico and imprisoned and deported if she tries to sneak into the US. After all, she’s only a kid, and we all know what happens to unaccompanied children under those circumstances, don’t we?

Moner, a Cleveland-born actress, singer and muso putting on a convincing accent, is surprisingly good as the sour Isabel, and tends to act the guys off the screen — even Benicio, who’s rarely looked as craggy, crusty, bleary and bloodied.

Painting a very negative picture of the contemporary US of A, this leaves much unresolved and head-scratchingly unclear, but that’s all because we’re leading up to a concluding third part, which screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is penning right now and should be here in another three years or so, whether Trump builds the wall or not.

Rated MA. Sicario: Day of the Soldado is in cinemas now.

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