Sicario: Day of the Soldado

2015’s Sicario was always going to be a hard act to follow, especially without director Denis Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins, actress Emily Blunt and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (deceased).

For the most part, returning screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water) weaves a compelling tale. When an Islamic terrorist blows himself up at the US-Mexican border is followed by the suicide bombing of a Kansas City grocery store, the Secretary of Defence (Matthew Modine) calls on Matt Graver (Josh Brolin reprising his role), a US Government agent who specialises in Black Operations and has a particular palate for torture.

We quickly learn that the recent suicide bombers were trafficked across the border by the cartels, and the unseen American President wants to reclassify these cartels as terrorist organisations in order to open up more brutal forms of recourse.

Graver’s tasked with inciting a fully-fledged war between the cartels in order to disrupt the human trafficking racket which is allowing jihadists to slip across the border into the United States. Re-teaming with Benicio Del Toro’s elusive hitman Alejandro, an operation is set in place to kidnap the 16-year-old daughter of a cartel kingpin and implicate a rival gang.

Best known for his work on Italian television’s excellent Gomorrah, director Stefano Sollima proves himself worthy of helming this standalone anthology film. While atmospherically Sicario: Day of the Soldado lacks the relentless dread of its predecessor, it does deliver a mature mid-budget thriller let down only by an implausible Hollywood ending delivered to further extend the franchise.

Three and a half stars