The drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.
The first Sicario was a film about the cycle of violence that exists because of the drug cartels and their wars for control. The civilians are, of course, the victims but the first film emphasized the escalating U.S. response to the drug cartels and casting that response in a critical light. This second film emphasizes the suffering of the civilians. The drug cartels begin helping terrorists enter the United States across the border elevating their status from a drug organization to a terrorist organization. This allows the government agent with ambiguous morals from the first film, played by Josh Brolin, to escalate his fight against the cartels. When the war escalates, the collateral damage increases.
The film starts off with a bang and really doesn’t let up throughout its entire 2-hour runtime. While the original film let moments flourish and had some excellent quiet acting moments, the sequel goes more for gusto. While I appreciate the style of the first film more, I didn’t completely write this one-off for taking a different approach and in fact, I enjoyed that this director didn’t just try to ape the style of the previous film.
Taylor Sheridan, returning to write this sequel, does a great job at showing that no matter what the conflict is or who the combatants are, civilians always suffer the most. Both the drug cartels and the U.S. agents show little regard for the lives of these bystanders. They make quick decisions about their lives like they’re nothing more than objects. It’s a theme that I’ve seen explored in numerous films but this film does it in a very unbiased manner. Every side has brutal, uncaring combatants and willing accomplices and every side has innocent bystanders who just have the rotten luck of being stuck in the middle. Add in the film’s relevance to current events and you’ve got the recipe for a very intense and thought-provoking sequel much like the original.
The core foundation is easily the great character building of Brolin and Del Toro. These are characters that can easily stand the test of time and are what franchises are made of. Brolin’s sense of authority and just taking over the role of Graver are just awe-inspiring. We don’t see characters this that often in today’s climate of superhero and big action fare. His ‘matter of fact’ attitude to any given situation really makes one want to peel back the layers a bit…and that’s a good thing. Then you have Del Toro’s Alejandro. Wow. Just the amount of what is going on behind the silence is enough to send shivers down one’s spine. This is easily one of the most infectious characters in the last decade.
Overall, this is an excellent sequel and I very much enjoyed it. Sheridan’s writing continues to impress. The loss of Jóhann Jóhannsson was a major blow for music lovers but the new composer, Hildur Guonadóttir, does a good job with such big shoes to fill. Of course, the original is better and I did miss the first film’s overwhelming sense of dread but this is a damn good sequel and the start of a promising franchise.