Friday, 6 July 2018

SICARIO : DAY OF THE SOLDADO - Tuesday 3rd July 2018.

'SICARIO : DAY OF THE SOLDADO' which I saw at my local multiplex this week is the follow up film to 2015's Critically acclaimed 'Sicario' as Directed by Denis Villeneuve and Written by Taylor Sheridan. Starring Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, with Emily Blunt, that film was about a principled FBI agent who is enlisted by a government task force to bring down the leader of a powerful and violent Mexican drug cartel. That film cost US$30M to make and raked in US$85M at the global Box Office and picked up fifteen award wins and a further 153 nominations including three Oscar nods, three BAFTA nods and two AACTA nods. Now three short years later, we have this follow up action crime thriller Directed by Italian film maker Stefano Sollima and once again written by Taylor Sheridan with Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin reprising their roles, but no Emily Blunt this time. The film cost about US$40M to make, has so far recouped US$35M, has garnered generally favourable responses from Critics, and apparently a third film is already in development.

The plot follows the people smuggling exploits at the US and Mexican border as it has elevated to the point where the cartels have also begun smuggling Sicario terrorists, and because this is now more lucrative than the former cocaine market. This forces the US Government under the direction of Secretary of Defence James Riley (Matthew Modine) to enlist the covert expertise of the CIA's Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to once again team up with ex-hitman and undercover operative Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) to eliminate the problem. Matters are brought to a head by a suicide bombing in a Kansas City supermarket in which four Muslim terrorists blow themselves to smithereens together with fifteen innocent shoppers, among them two children. The Government suspects that the Mexican drug cartels are transporting Islamic terrorists across the border to carry out their atrocities on American soil.

Graver suggests that the best option to eradicate the problem is to start a war between the major cartel factions, so that they eventually wipe themselves out. Down Mexico City way, Gillick takes out a high profile lawyer of one of the major cartels, by shooting him multiple times at point blank range execution style in broad daylight in the city centre.

Meanwhile, Graver and his elite Team, kidnap Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner), the teenage daughter of a drug lord, in a covert operation as she is travelling home from school, designed to incite a war between rival cartels. Graver, Gillick, and their team transfer a bound, gagged and blindfolded Isabela across the border by plane to Texas and stage a mock rescue to make her think she was kidnapped by her father's enemies. Gillick forms a staged bond with Isabela, and the team plans to transport her back to Mexico by armoured car with the view to transplant her into territory controlled by her father's rivals so as to further escalate the conflict.

However, once inside Mexican country, the Federal Police escort for their journey by road across barren countryside opens fire on the American vehicles without warning. They also come under siege by short range mortar attack by various cartel members keeping a safe distance. As a result of this sudden ambush Graver and his crew spring on the defensive and take out twenty five or so Mexican Police Officers - of questionable integrity and because they were there at the time!

In the exchange of gunfire and the ensuing chaos, Isabela does a runner and skips the scene somewhat sharpish, fortunately protected with a bullet proof vest. When the bullet ballet has ended, Gillick goes in search of Isabela, leaving Graver and his crew to get the Hell outta Dodge before a major international incident erupts and the authorities descend upon them en masse. Riley via teleconference, advises Graver that the four suicide bombers responsible for the Kansas City killings were not in fact smuggled across the border from Mexico, but were another US based terrorist cell. On this basis, and the fact that the Mexican bloodbath is all over the news, the President has ordered via CIA boss Cynthia Foard (Catherine Keener) that they abandon the mission completely and erase all proof of any American involvement in the incident. Graver is given explicit orders to eliminate Isabela Reyes as part of the cover up . . . and Gillick too. Graver contacts Gillick via satellite phone and orders that he kills Isabela, but he refuses, and so goes rogue to protect her, knowing also that all ties with himself have now been cut, and that his life is at risk too.

Graver is keeping close tabs on Gillick and Isabela from an overhead drone providing real time surveillance straight to his laptop, and via a tracking device that Gillick knowingly implanted in Isabela's shoe in the event that they become separated. Graver, at first wants to see how Gillick's plans play out, but then reluctantly assembles his Team to hunt them down in Mexico.

Gillick and Isabela attempt to gain entry into the US disguised as illegal immigrants. Miguel (Elijah Rodriguez), a Mexican-American teenager who lives just over the border in Texas and has got in with the wrong company thanks to a nefarious cousin, and is a new recruit to the gang transporting the immigrants across the border by the bus load under cover of night. Miguel recognises Gillick from a previous encounter Stateside, some days before. He alerts his boss and Gillick and Isabela are captured, bound, gagged and blindfolded and driven out to a remote part of the desert with several car loads of young goons. Miguel is ordered to execute Gillick as part of his initiation and acceptance into the gang. Meanwhile, all of this is being closely monitored on screen by Graver who is still some way off in a helicopter. 

Miguel shoots Gillick in the head and left bound, gagged and blindfolded presumed dead lying face down in the sand with blood oozing from the close range gun shot. The onlooking goons all cheer, and depart the scene. Isabela was an uncomfortable witness to the shooting fearing that her status as a powerful Cartel linchpin's daughter will mean that she's next. She is carted off unceremoniously with the other goons, who all praise Miguel for his decisive action - which he becomes quickly uncomfortable with and jumps off the truck carrying them all. Graver and his team track the Mexican gang and Isabela with the help of the tracker still in her shoe, and kill all the gang members. The carnage is swiftly delivered and rather than kill the young girl he pities her traumatised and troubled state and loads her into the helicopter and whisks her back to the US for a witness protection programme.

Only one of the great trifecta of talent returns to the Production Team of 'Sicario : Day of the Soldado', and that is Writer Taylor Sheridan. Missing are Director Denis Villeneuve and Cinematographer Roger Deakins, but don't let that fool you. Here Director Stefano Sollima has crafted a worthy follow-up, although not of the same calibre that made the 2015 first instalment so refreshing and gritty. The action rarely seems to let up here; the set pieces are convincingly delivered; the performances are strong, even from the young rebellious Moner; and all this adds up to a dynamic, thrilling, tough and violent story and relevant for the current political climate. The film stands alone in its own right, and the ending keeps the momentum going for the third instalment, but I'm not sure how much more milking can be done from this series that hasn't already been seen. Two's company, three's a crowd may just prove to be the case, but then again . . . .

This film warrants four claps of the clapperboard, from a possible five.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

No comments:

Post a Comment

Odeon Online - please let me know your thoughts?