SICARIO 2: SOLDADO
Josh keeps Brolin, Brolin, Brolin at the box office in his third blockbuster of the summer.
DIRECTOR Stefano Sollima
CAST Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Catherine Keener, Isabela Moner
PLOT After a US bombing is linked to Mexican people-smugglers, covert ops experts Graver (Brolin) and Gillick (Del Toro) are enlisted to help the CIA incite war between rival cartels, but the two men soon find themselves on opposing sides. APPRAISE THE DETAILS of this sequel to 2015’s dark, drug war masterpiece — no Denis Villeneuve, no Roger Deakins, no Emily Blunt — and you’d be forgiven for hearing the steady klaxon of multiple alarm bells. Well, those warnings won’t sound for very long after the lights go down in the cinema. Sicario 2: Soldado begins with one of the year’s most scintillating, pin-you-toyour-seat opening sequences (built around a suicide bombing scene that nails the chilling banality of modern terror) and only cranks things up from there. In fact, by the time the last bodies have fallen and the border country dust has cleared, the only thing really blotting this follow-up is a mildly frustrating ending.
Before then, all you can do is marvel at how the reconfigured Sicario team — new director Stefano ‘Gomorrah’ Sollima, incoming cinematographer Dariusz ‘The Martian’ Wolski and returning screenwriter Taylor Sheridan — have managed to build on the militarised drug enforcement purgatory rendered first time around. After that inciting terror attack leads to a breathtaking, retaliative Zero Dark Thirty-style raid in Djibouti, we are reintroduced to smirking black ops rogue Matt Graver (Brolin), who soon finds himself in front of the Secretary of Defense, James Ridley (Modine).
Ridley explains that — because the recent suicide bombers were trafficked to America by the cartels — the unseen, faintly Trumpian President wants to add Mexican gangs to the list of terror organisations. To achieve this he needs Graver to whip up a conflict between drug crews. So Graver petitions soulful deathbringer Alejandro Gillick (Del Toro) to help him abduct the daughter of fearsome kingpin, Reyes. Meanwhile, we are also following Miguel (Rodriguez), a seemingly unrelated young man being inducted into cartel life by his cousin.
It’s quite a fiddly lead-in to the narrative meat of the film. But it eventually clicks the detonator on a breakneck series of set-pieces that showcase Sollima’s eye for authentically chaotic, practical stuntwork. Soon, the mission has tipped into disaster and CIA boss Cynthia Foard (Keener) is asking Graver to “clean the scene” by killing both Gillick and Isabel.
Intersecting with Miguel’s tale, things hurtle to a nihilistic conclusion. Or at least until, at the last moment, a touch of comic book implausibility bleeds into Sicario’s captivatingly bleak, grimly realistic world. The long-term reasoning behind the decision is clear enough. But you can’t shake the feeling that — for the sake of a myth-stretching trilogy — we have been denied a near-flawless two-movie statement.
VERDICT Thrillingly paced, ravishingly shot and eerily topical, Sicario 2 retains much of its predecessor’s dark charm despite its shuffled creative personnel. But a jarringly Hollywood ending dulls its overall impact.
“Yes, one size does fit all.”