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Cross Border Woes – FILM REVIEW SACHIN CHATTE

(l to r) Josh Brolin, Jeffrey Donovan and Benicio Del Toro in SICARIO: Day of the Soldado

Film: Sicario- Day of the Soldado

Cast: Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro

Directed by: Stefano Sollima

Duration: 2 hrs 4 mins

Rating: * * *

When Sicario made waves back in 2015, it didn’t appear to be a film that could potentially have a sequel. But we have one now and it is not a disappointing one. If at all, the disappointment could stem from the fact the Denis Vileneuve film had raised the bar (and expectations) considerable high. That film had primarily five things going in its favour – Vileneuve’s direction, Roger Deakins cinematography, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s haunting music, Taylor Sheridan’s writing and the cast of Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. Of those, only the writer and cast (minus Ms Blunt) are a part of this film.

Stefano Sollima of Italian origin, who has been more with television than cinema, dons the hat of the director and while he doesn’t try to emulate Vileneuve, he keeps the same template.

If the first film was about the smuggling of drugs and gang wars, this one focuses on human trafficking from Mexico across the US border – drugs and mafia are also a part of the proceedings but they form the background. In fact, Sicario- Day of the Soldado is more about the two characters from the previous rather than an issue based story. There is an issue at hand and that is, to what extend can the CIA and America go to disrupt migrants from coming in and fight terrorism. They appear to do that at any cost.

Matt (Josh Brolin, on a roll in the last year or so) reprises the role of a covert CIA operative who has to swing into action after terrorists blow themselves up in a US supermarket. There are indications that they may have crossed through the Mexican border and the agency puts Matt in charge of the crackdown. There are a couple of scenes initially, one where the migrants try to cross the border and the supermarket scene which are done so swiftly that you barely get time to digest what you just saw.

The US government comes up with a plan that appears to be ingenious but as always it gets botched up, royally. Here, Matt is in charge of kidnapping Isabel (Isabella Moner, feisty) the teenage daughter of the drug lord Carlos Reyes. The idea is to make it look like the rival Matamoros cartel has done this deed which will result in a gang war between the cartels, which is what the US wants.

Alejandro (Benecio Del Toro) whose daughter was killed in the previous film becomes a part of the operation. The stage is all set for a tense kidnapping drama and post that the layers begin to unfold. The US government can’t allow themselves to be exposed in the kidnapping so it has to be a clean job – but it isn’t.

Sheridan creates situations where they find themselves in a quandary. Like the Mexican cops being hand in glove with the cartels or the Americans leaving the girl and her rescuer high and dry.

There is also a young boy who gets involved with the wrong guys and helps them with smuggling people – on one hand, you sympathize with him because of his age but on the other, since he also appears to be knowing what he is getting into.

Other dilemmas are also brought to the fore like Alejandro protecting the daughter of the killer who was responsible for his trauma.

The music score by Hildur Gudnadottir, close associate of Jóhannsson, comes across as an apt tribute – ditto with the camerawork by Dariusz Wolski. Brolin and Del Toro get a lot of screen time and they make the best of it. All in all, if you can keep Vilenueve’s Sicario in cold storage and watch this one,  it is an enjoyable and layered flick.

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