Wed, 18 Jul 2018
Sicario 2: Soldado (15)
Running time2hr 2min
SICARIO was a bruisingly brilliant action flick, but even in 2015, it smacked just a little archaic, with its technothriller sheen and po-faced, Tom Clancy-esque conceit. Arguably, the minor details made all the difference – Emily Blunt’s agent was a force to be reckoned with amid a landscape that was otherwise crushingly macho, and director Denis Villeneuve offered a tantalising sneak peek at the command of cinema he would ultimately flaunt to full effect in Blade Runner 2049. Blunt is out
for this sequel (which, stateside, goes by the bafflingly clunky moniker Sicario: Day of the Soldado), as is Villeneuve, replaced at the helm by Italian gritfather Stefano Sollima. Altogether, it’s a compelling, even topical actioner, but like its
predecessor, is possessed of a real vein of bleakness that may be a touch too oppressive for drive-by fans of the genre.
Soldado’s plot is rooted firmly in the fake news tropes of the Trump era; happily, then, Sollima takes a note from Kathryn Bigelow’s playbook, steering the project clear of tastelessness by infusing it with an unsettling air of ambivalence. ISIS are collaborating with Mexican drug cartels to export terror across the Rio Grande, and it’s up to agents Matt (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) to sabotage their operations. Naturally, this takes the form of a ludicrous (and patently
illegal) scheme to sow mistrust between the gangs, a plot which incurs the wrath of meddling Washington bigwigs (an inescapable clique fronted by Catherine Keener’s hardcase politico). Chaos reigns.
If the Sicario films have a definite niche, it’s this; just as Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy reinvented the superhero genre as a Heat-esque crime epic, Villeneuve and Sollima show the action movie, now something of a barmy Hollywood stepchild after one too many Jason Statham misfires, to be a vehicle capable of navigating adult grit and gloom. There are bluntly magnificent set pieces here that function as cinema, not just mere spectacles – a supermarket bombing is staged to positively traumatic effect, while the muddy-grey visuals speak of an immiserated underbelly just south of the US border, the inhabitants of which the present American leadership has sought so squalidly to keep from its slice of ‘utopia’. Though it did not reckon explicitly with the spectre of Bin Laden, the first Sicario found its locus in the strife and paranoia of the War on Terror; Soldado finds the threat to have intensified, if anything, as those faceless forces that seek harm upon the American Empire are driven together by official secrecy and Trumpian hysteria. It’s mid-series filler – a final Sicario is, predictably, in the works – but filler of the most scorching variety, packed with drably beautiful imagery and some genuinely nerve-shredding sequences.