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With the luck and timing that always go with talent, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has come up with an uncompromisingly fierce thriller that involves the US government separating a Mexican father from his child as part of a plan to crack down on illegal border crossings.
He and Italian director Stefano Sollima (known for the 2015 mob drama Suburra) have collaborated on a horribly gripping sequel to Sheridan’s 2015 Mexican cartel picture Sicario (directed by Denis Villeneuve). This delivers a coolly targeted payload of brutality, launched from a cauldron of male aggression and international politics.
That Mexican father-and-child motif is related to other parental agonies: a US agent’s memory of his dead daughter, a woman working for the Mexican cartels who bizarrely brings her infant to a payoff, a terrified woman who tries to get her child out of a supermarket before a suicide bomber presses the detonator. But this film is no bleeding-heart liberal manifesto.
It is tactlessly about just that Latino gangbanger-migrant connection that the Trump administration seek to exploit and amplify at every opportunity; Sheridan fuses this with a war-on-terror aesthetic taken from the foreign policy of previous administrations. There is something of Kathryn Bigelow in the night-vision scenes, Michael Mann in the large-calibre weaponry and high-speed convoys, and something also of the Coens’ No Country for Old Men, which like this film stars Josh Brolin. And as a grandiose, episodic story of evil, it has something of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. It is a violent action noir, rocket-fuelled with its own reckless cynicism.
Brolin reprises his role from the first movie as US government agent Matt Graver, specialising in torture and deniable dirty tricks, working with operative Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) who had a personal score to settle with the cartels. Now the situation is that Isis are moving suicide bombers into the United States through Mexico, working with the gangs south of the border: Sheridan and Sollima create a blisteringly powerful terrorist-outrage scene in a Texas supermarket. The US government gets Graver and Alejandro to run interference on a monumentally dangerous scale: incite a fully-fledged war between the cartels to disrupt this new entry point. And they plan to do this by kidnapping the spoilt teenage-princess daughter of a top gang boss, Isabel Reyes (a very good performance by Isabela Moner), and blaming it on rival gangs.
In the last movie, the sweaty and aggressive maleness was offset by the presence of Emily Blunt as smart young FBI agent Kate Macer, and it’s arguably a flaw that she is not here for this one. Yet this movie is just so piercingly disturbing and riveting. Moreover, Moner is very interesting as the entitled mob heiress who is shown beating up a fellow student at her posh school, smugly making it clear to the principal that he can’t touch her for it – but then terrified as her abductors suddenly show up, as if to enact some supernaturally green-lit punishment. Once released, Moner’s Isabel is calm, blank, watchful as if somehow sensing that her kidnappers and rescuers are the same people, and far from ready simply to accept whatever situation she finds herself in. Meanwhile, a boy called Miguel (played by newcomer Elijah Rodriguez) is recruited by the bad guys for illicit border crossings. He is to be the soldado, or soldier, of the title, his existence intersecting fatefully with those of Matt and Alejandro.
Inevitably, things don’t go to plan with Matt and Alejandro’s gang-war ploy and the Washington politicos, chiefly top aide Cynthia Foards (Catherine Keener) are furious at certain embarrassing footage being unveiled on Fox News. This movie channels the paranoia and bad faith that’s in the air at the moment and converts it into a thriller of visceral hostility and overwhelming nihilism. It’s all killer, no filler.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Sicario 2: Soldado review – terrific tale of terror on the Mexican border | Film