Directed by: Stefano Sollima
Written by / Based on Characters Created by: Taylor Sheridan
Produced by: Basil Iwanyk, Edward L. Mcdonnell, Molly Smith, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill
Music by: Hildur Guđnadóttir
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Catherine Keener.
The word Sicario comes from the zealots of Jerusalem. Killers who hunted the Romans who invaded their homeland. In Mexico, Sicario means hitman (Sicario, 2015).
Sicario: Day of the Soldado brings the same grit as the previous instalment with Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) returning to take revenge on the cartel who killed his wife and daughter; this time CIA operative Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) needs the assassin’s special set of skills to kidnap the daughter of a cartel kingpin to start a war. Because now the American Government has declared the cartels as terrorists.
Returning from the Middle East it’s a tactic Matt Graver has used before: take down a king, you solve problems; you make peace. Take down a prince (or here, princess), you create chaos.
Writer, Taylor Sheridan has brought back many familiar faces, developing the characters further with the exception of FBI Critical Incident Response Group Agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt).
Emily Blunt in the original was such a significant piece, the entire film circling her role as, the agent used by forces above her pay-grade, that I wondered how a sequel could have the same impact without her.
Yet, the shear gravitational pull of Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro and Josh Brolin as Matt Graver grab your attention, the undercurrent of force from these bad-guys, now shown to be the ones used by the government for supposed good, are further revealed as the story takes a dark road filled with soldiers from both sides of the boarder fighting their own battles – some newly recruited Coyotes where the money’s in the shepherding of migrants from Mexico to America, more money made from human trafficking than drugs; to the kidnapped daughter of a cartel kingpin, Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner): sixteen-years-old, queen of her universe and willing to scratch and defend her own pride until the reality of her father’s business is revealed; her kidnappers the only ones she can trust.
It’s a story that keeps developing, like the previous Sicario. And the tone is similar; yet there’s a more dramatic, emotional undertone as the innocence of the young girl Isabela reminds Alejandro of his daughter and reminds Matt of his humanity.
Italian director, Stefano Sollima (Gomorrah, Romanzo Criminale, A.C.A.B.: All Cops Are Bastards and Suburra) certainly had big shoes to fill after director, Denis Villeneuve absolutely nailed, Sicario (2015) (which I gave five stars, see review here).
I’m talking steal-caps not the open-toed numbers worn by Matt – here in Crocs (showing much more about this character than words just by his choice of footwear: brilliant).
And Sollima has succeeded in creating a film similar in tone but slightly different, exploring a more emotional landscape demonstrated so well in the soundtrack.
After the recent passing of composer, Jóhann Johannsson (composer of Sicario and the film here dedicated to his memory), his protégé and collaborative partner, Hildur Guđnadóttir was tasked with composing the soundtrack for Soldado.
Again, we have a similar sound with Guđnadóttir mirroring the same restraint; orchestral touches here and there and references to ‘The Beast’ – with downward bass glissandos and distorted drums.
The droning of that identifiable sound of foreboding doom would have been a temptation for over-use. But there’s control, like the quiet power and force of Alejandro, the man instantly recognisable by the way he holds himself, by the quiet swagger of his walk. And it’s the restraint that creates the edge-of-your-seat suspense.
There’s gun shots and blood and explosions but not gratuitous violence because that would take away from the detail of the story.
And devices like raids viewed through the night-vision goggles of soldiers soften the violence, the grainy green of blood splatter more like watching a computer game than people being shot and killed.
So thankfully for us, the audience, we get a sequel that keeps the brilliance of the first film continuing with a new and interesting story.
Some of the Villeneuve poetry is missing. Even with those wide-len’s shots of a lonely desert still seem to miss the expanse of his eye. And I didn’t relate to young Isabela Reyes like the force that was Emily Blunt as Kate Macer.
Yet with my expectations set to a such a high level, I was not disappointed.
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