Upon release, some films begin to take a life of their own, creating a mythology around them which becomes almost completely separate from the merits of the movie itself.
These movies are commonly released around the Oscar hellscape of bleak winter, and all anybody can talk about is the fi‘buzz’.
One such of these films is Three Billboards, whose biting delve into American justice created both adulation and scorn.
Probably the most memorable of this category in recent memory, is La La Land, which provided a sweet escapism into old-style Hollywood in a time when the world needed it.
Often these films feel timely, like they’re saying something about the times in which they exist. They feel reflective, and sometimes preachy.
Sicario 2: Soldado is not one of these films, but its stark parallels with the themes of tenuous border security are hard to ignore.
The first Sicario, starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, was a grey masterpiece of moral murkiness so steeped in dread it produced a cold sweat for its entire running time.
The sequel, which nobody really asked for, has dropped Blunt in the starring role and feels as though it steps out into the light a little, offers more clarity on the dire battle between the US and the increasing tyranny of the Mexican drug cartels.
It loses none of the first’s vice-like grip on that knot in your stomach – the score makes sure of that – but some of director Denis Villeneuve’s original’s potency is lost along with Blunt, with Steffano Sollima stepping into the chair.
Blunt acted as the audience surrogate in the first film, framing what we saw of both Brolin and del Toro. This provided an emotional distance from them which allowed the audience to fully grasp the ethical complexities of the three leads.
Without Blunt’s shoulder to look over, the audience is left with Brolin and del Toro as the two protagonists, and the film feels as though it compels you to sympathise with them despite their more-than-questionable actions.
Despite its pitfalls, however, Sollima manages to craft an intense action thriller which packs a punch unlike any crime film in recent memory.
The set pieces are long-telegraphed, and the tension which precedes them is nail-biting. When the action does eventually erupt, it explodes.
This almost orchestral swell of viscera and recuperation will shred the nerves, but leave you feeling utterly compelled.
As mentioned, in the quiet moments, when you have time to ponder the implications of the film, you find yourself missing Blunt’s righteous outrage, but when things begin to heat up again, you don’t much care.
The film looks great, even without Roger Deakins’ touches – and the return of the main motif from the late Jóhann Jóhannsson reminds you instantly you don’t want to be in this world again.
Moments of brutality in this film are sometimes hard to watch, largely down to the sound engineering which delivers both gunshots and screams straight to your gut.
And there are parts which really shine, one in particular in which I thought they were going to be truly bold.
Sadly, this moment did not stick, which punctuated the well-crafted tension and moved the dusty crime thriller into the realm of popcorn fodder.
Regardless of this moment, Soldado is a worthy successor to the original, and the most brutal drug film of this decade. Just don’t think about it too much.
Sicario 2: Soldado is in cinemas now