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Film review: Sicario: Day of the Soldado is unbearably tense with gut-wrenching action set-pieces

PUBLISHED: 09:13 04 July 2018 | UPDATED: 13:57 04 July 2018

Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro Gillick and Josh Brolin as Matt Graver in Sicario 2: Soldado. Picture: LIONSGATE FILMS/RICHARD FOREMAN

Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro Gillick and Josh Brolin as Matt Graver in Sicario 2: Soldado. Picture: LIONSGATE FILMS/RICHARD FOREMAN

Archant

Despite the reassuring presence of Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, some could be forgiven for being sceptical about whether Stefano Sollima's sequel to Denis Villeneuve's dark, arresting thriller Sicario would be as powerful as the original.

Sicario 2: Soldado Benicio del Toro as Alejandro Gillick and Josh Brolin as Matt Graver. Picture: PA PHOTO/CTMG INC/LIONSGATE FILMS/RICHARD FOREMAN JR SMPSPSicario 2: Soldado Benicio del Toro as Alejandro Gillick and Josh Brolin as Matt Graver. Picture: PA PHOTO/CTMG INC/LIONSGATE FILMS/RICHARD FOREMAN JR SMPSP

Any uncertainty quickly dissipates in the film’s chilling opening sequences of terrorist attacks that both capture the horror of the situation and reestablish the foreboding, nihilistic tone of its predecessor.

We are then reunited with CIA agent Matt Graver (Brolin) and assassin Alejandro Gillick (del Toro), who are enlisted by the American government to incite a war between rival cartels in Mexico, which Matt decides to do by kidnapping Isabela (Isabela Moner), the daughter of powerful drugs kingpin Carlos Reyes.

The film also follows Miguel (Elijah Rodriguez) as he is inducted into a cartel.

As Matt and Alejandro’s operation spirals drastically out of control, Sheridan and Sollima knit these seemingly unrelated storylines together through a series of unbearably tense, gut-wrenching action set-pieces and pathos-laden exchanges that exhibit the pair’s talent for blending grimly realistic, chaotic violence with character.

Sollima draws fine performances from his cast. Brolin is dependably great as the returning, no-nonsense Graver and Moner’s damaged Isabela and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo’s supremely nasty cartel leader Gallo make strong impressions. It is del Toro’s tortured, sympathetic monster, however, who remains the beating black heart of this riveting and wonderfully bleak cinematic saga.

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