“No rules this time” (Sicario 2: Soldado review)

Capping off Josh Brolin’s triumphant summer at the box office, ‘Sicario 2: Soldado’ sees the return of Matt Graver (a CIA agent played by Brolin) and hitman Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) as they team up to fight the Mexican drug cartels who have begun transporting terrorists across the border. I only watched the first film (made in 2015) a few weeks ago, but I must say I was a huge fan. It was dark, intensely brooding and morally ambiguous. What a joy to say that I felt this one managed to maintain that level of intensity.

After his huge summer (starring in Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2), Josh Brolin continues to shine as the rogue operative who fights fire with fire. Alongside him, Benicio del Toro is unapologetically intense, bringing a brutal characterisation to the film.

From the moment Sicario 2 began, it was clear it was opening as it meant to go on. By this, I mean that several suicide bombers blow up a supermarket full of families. This deeply unsettling start immediately sets the tone as ‘not your average Hollywood film’. The gore and violence are incredibly brutal, but importantly that are justified. Director Stefano Sollima (stepping into the very big shoes of Denis Villeneuve, the first instalment’s director) has created a worthy sequel to the first film, where the brutality and moral ambiguity are only expanded. I must also add that composer Hildur Guonadottir has created a brilliant intense score that echoes the finest parts of the first instalment’s score, so brilliantly composed by the now sadly deceased Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose memory the film is dedicated to. Hildur is an Icelandic cellist who worked alongside Jóhannsson for the first film, so her involvement felt justified and a fitting legacy.

One notable absence from the first film was Emily Blunt. However, I feel this was a necessary decision given the stories darker themes. She was the voice of morality of the first film, the audience member within the film accepting things were wrong. The tone of this film was more unapologetic, the violence more extreme, the plot themes darker. I feel her character’s presence would have actually hindered the narrative.

Overall, I think Sicario 2: Soldado is a worthy successor to Sicario, with the tone very well maintained across the films. A final shot harkening to The Godfather’s iconic ending hints a possible narrative for the third instalment, currently in development. Whether the success will continue to be maintained, only time will tell.

9 Stars

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