CRIME DRAMA; 2hr 2min
STARRING: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner
Far from home: Del Toro and Moner
Only the grimmest pickings exist at the US–Mexico border, across which terrorists are being smuggled by Colombian drug cartels. Such desperate times cry out for the reprobate brand of down-and-dirty measures with which battle-scarred CIA agent Matt Graver and lawyer turned loner Alejandro (a hard-boiled Brolin and Del Toro) became intimately familiar in 2015’s Sicario (alas, Emily Blunt is out).
It’s safe to say that neither man has softened in the intervening years: when they meet up in Bogota in this hellish sequel from director Stefano Sollima and writer Taylor Sheridan, it's with the specific intention of raising cartel hell. Alejandro summarily sets about doing exactly that by gunning down a key attorney, then kidnapping the hellcat teenage daughter (Moner as Isabela Reyes) of the drug kingpin who murdered his family, niftily staging the snatch to look like the work of rival operatives.
The US military doesn’t mess about when its buttons are being stomped on, and stomping is what Sollima and Sheridan’s bottom-feeding collision is all about. Their corrupted border politics are a twisty, blood-soaked trip, its decimated ethical boundaries mocking conventional rights and wrongs while stranding Alejandro and Isabela in a deadly no man’s land. The powerlessness of the refugees who share that sad territory with them and the ruthless double dealing of everyone in control hit especially hard in the shifting political sands of today’s America. Soldado’s ambiguity is all-pervasive and takes no given truths for granted. The only rule in its futile war is that none of the old rules apply—regardless of which side of the line you’re on.