Sicario: Day of the Soldado

SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO. Starring: Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, and Isabela Moner. Also starting Jeffrey Donovan, and Catherine Keener. Directed by Stefano Sollima. Rated MA15+. Restricted. (Strong violence). 122 min.

This American crime thriller is a sequel to the 2015 film, “Sicario”, which was regarded as one of the best movies of 2015. The word Sicario in the film’s title is Spanish for a hired assassin or hitman. Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) is the hitman of the film’s title. Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin reprise their roles from the first movie together with four other members of the cast. Alejandro leads a task force with the help of a Government official, Matt Graver (Josh Brolin).

Stefano Sollima steps into the role of directing the sequel, replacing Denis Villeneuve. Taylor Sheridan has scripted both the sequel and the original film. The story continues with events that surround the drug war at the border of US and Mexico. The war is now at the point that drug cartels have commenced transporting terrorists to the US.

The plot line of this movie has a contemporary edge that plays into community concern about drugs and terrorism. Its action scenarios reinforce how entrenched the drug trade is, but the level of aggression that the film displays, and the fear of terrorism that it engenders overpower positive messages that might be apparent in other ways.

In this film, the CIA discovers that Mexican drug cartels are smuggling jihadi terrorists across their border into the US, and to cope with what is happening, it sends two of its top operatives - Federal agent, Matt Graver, and former undercover drug lord, Alejandro Gillick - to investigate the problem and solve it.

The two plan to kidnap the daughter of one of the drug lords, Isabella Reyes (Isabela Moner), and they purposefully design theoperation to set the rival cartels warring among each other. The Mexican Government, however, discovers their plan, thwarts it, and Graver orders that Reyes be killed. He sees her as collateral damage, because his own family was murdered by a drug lord, whose cartel wanted to escalate the drug war. Gillick refuses to comply, and resolves to protect Reyes, whereupon Graver assembles a team to hunt them both down, The film not only sets warring factions against each other, but also Graver against Gillick.

“Sicario” was a violent film, and the sequel sustains the same level of aggression. The violence is very strong, as the film ‘s classification warns - it is bloody, and the film is grim, and dark. Shootouts are prolific and the sound of gunshots is even timed to the rhythm of the music on the soundtrack, which is pounding but effective. Moral questions are raised when Graver and Gillick argue about what they stand for, but such issues lose out to the intensity of the action. Both Graver and Gillick question the meaning of their behaviour, and what they are fighting for, but brutal events go on regardless.

In the original film, a lone female character (Emily Blunt) tries to survive in a masculine world. She wants to behave ethically, and finds it hard to do so, and her conflicts and unwillingness to compromise gave the original film an interesting modern edge. Here, the emphasis is placed firmly on hyper-energy shootouts, and character development and moral issues are not the film’s core concerns. This film is a new chapter in the drug war. Fear of terrorism is manipulated strongly, and there is relentless pursuit of bigger action. There was an intimacy about “Sicario” (2015) that gives way in the sequel to a heavier action beat.

Regardless, this is a good thriller film that develops well-modulated tension, as the plot twists and turns in surprising directions. It is well produced and photographed, and directed with energy, but the aggression it shows is vivid. Like its predecessor, it has little to say about the value of human life, and characters in the movie are mostly driven negatively by personal motives, such as revenge, survival, and payback.

Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Roadshow Films Pty. Ltd.

Released June 28th., 2018

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