Sicario 2: Soldado is a violent but inconsistent sequel
The first Sicario movie was gritty, superbly acted and featured some of the most nerve-shredding sequences in recent years, easily placing it as one of the finest films of the 21st Century so far. But what really made the film special was the sheer beauty in which it was shot. Director Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Prisoners) teamed up with revered cinematographer Roger Deakins and the results were awe-inspiring. It was shot with such style, class and realism that it really made Sicario stand out from similar movies of its kind. So the thought of a sequel was exciting, but with Villeneuve & Deakins not returning (and Emily Blunt also not involved after leading the previous film) I was left more than a little apprehensive.
And yet somehow this sequel absolutely nails the approach and visual flair of its predecessor perfectly. New director Stefano Sollima (Gomorrah) has a great realisation for this now unlikely franchise, filming every scene with such gorgeous precision and never relying on quick cuts, ensuring every scene has its chance to breathe.
Surprisingly, the main problem with the movie comes from a returning face in screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. Sheridan is a major talent, also coming off the back of his Writer/Director debut in the criminally underrated Wind River, but here he struggles and almost entirely forgets what made the first movie so great in the first place. The first Sicario felt like a documentary come to life, yet this never shakes the feel of a Hollywood movie. He tries juggling so many characters and sub-plots that it can come across as messy, with very few of the stories really making much of an impact.
Sicario 2 is the story of the ongoing war on drugs between on the U.S-Mexico border, which has now escalated as the cartels begin trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) must re-team with the mercurial Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro)
Soldado is anchored by two riveting lead performances. Benicio Del Toro excels as the mysterious and chilling Alejandro, with a great deal of time given to adapt his character from the events of the previous film. And can we all now confirm that 2018 belongs to Josh Brolin? After scene-stealing villainous turns in the hugely successful Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2, Brolin takes centre-stage here and totally commands the screen. He is a presence felt in every scene and you totally believe him as this corrupt man who is on a mission to shake up this cartel war.
The problem is that large portions of the movie are given to these new characters and none of them ever grip you like they want you too. You don’t really care for any of them in the end, just hopeful that the next scene with our leading men is just round the corner. Given the terrific screenplays Sheridan has written previously, this felt nowhere near as tight and far more interested in relying on contrived plot mechanics.
However, it’s the action which keeps things memorable. With a lot more violence than the previous film, it’s a ruthless experience throughout as the film never holds back in what it’s presenting. It’s not an easy film to digest as its very real and raw, delivering a really atmospheric and bleak feel to it.
The score too is thunderous, adding a real energy and tension to every scene. Hildur Guðnadóttir (who also did the music for Arrival and The Revenant) ensures the film is always moody and powerful.
However, the film sadly ends on a whimper. The third act fails to live up to the pulsating first and story driven second, instead struggling to reach the finish line as it juggles all these intertwining plots. The first Sicario was very much its own film and for a large sum of Soldado it’s the same, but it actually ends teasing another sequel, surely with the intentions of wrapping this up as a trilogy. I felt it was misjudged and would’ve benefitted from a more complete climax. Let’s just hope for better in Part 3.
Verdict: Lean and Mean, Sicario 2 packs a real punch but due to too many storylines and characters, it struggles to find an identity of if its own.
Best Moment: In one of the most disturbing yet well executed scenes of the year, a bomb attack in the US takes place in one glorious unbroken shot.