In Spanish, the word ’Sicario’ means a hit-man, and ’Soldado’ a soldier. This ‘Sicario’ film is a continuation of the narrative of the first. Both films are to do with drug cartels that operate on the US-Mexico border. The difference is that the first was directed by the French-Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve, and here the baton is handed over to the Italian film maker, Stefano Sollima. Both are fine action directors, but Villeneuve has a broader vision and is a more interesting stylist.
The unfortunate events of recent weeks on the subject of Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy, particularly on the border at El Paso, Texas, colours your viewing of this film dramatically. In this movie, the cartels are suspected of smuggling in not just cocaine, but Islamic terrorists. A bomb has gone off in Kansas City, set off by a group of jihadis, who may or may not have come in through the Mexican border. In response, the Secretary of Defence asks for a re-definition of the terms of engagement, and suggests that the drug lords be described as terrorists.
According to this new classification, the US army can be directly involved in going after the cartels, and American Intelligence can make use of ‘black-ops’, or covert operations to assassinate selected individuals. In response to this new ‘Mexican threat’ to the homeland, CIA agent, Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and operative, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro), from the old team of drug lord hunters in the previous film, get together for some fresh blood letting on the border.
An horrific idea is thought up for drawing the cartels out of their dug-outs and instigating mayhem in their ranks. The US team kidnaps Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner), the teenaged daughter of one of the bosses, and makes it look like a job executed by one of his rivals. Then they sit and wait patiently for the gang war to begin.
Should Hollywood movies be considered the ‘soft power’ of the US – presenting robust American ideals in a positive, soft focus light – this film does just the opposite. It paints a dangerously cynical picture of the Government. By approving a plan to kidnap a sixteen year old girl on her way back from school, and by using her as a sacrificial pawn in the war on drugs/terror, the film is simply describing the illegal methods of any of the failed States in her neighbourhood.
‘Sicario – Day of the Soldado’ is mounted well, with terrific helicopter shots sweeping across barren land at dusk and dawn. The actors are gritty and believable. The controlled pace holds you to the screen. But at a time when recent television news coverage of the same location and the same nationalities has shocked us by its inhumanity, watching this movie is an unsettling experience. A more politically incorrect Hollywood film would be difficult to find.