Sicario: Day of the Soldado

The sequel to the excellent 2015 “Sicario” is a worthy follow up, even if it cannot match the bold moves made by its predecessor.

Taylor Sheridan, who has made an impressive mark with his scripts for “Hell or High Water,” “Wind River” and the original “Sicario,” here brings back the characters first assayed by Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, and Jeffrey Donovan. Brolin plays the tough as nails CIA operative charged with clamping down on the drug violence along the border. He has little compulsion eschewing his own brand of violence as a means to the end goal, which juxtaposition Sheridan uses to intriguing effect. Del Toro plays his CIA partner, leveraging his role as a Mexican prosecutor to finesse some of the strategies against the bad guys.

A riveting scene of crossing the border is the film’s high point. Trigger happy gangsters a couple lanes over are spotted by the good guys, as the traffic lurches along. But when required, the good guys can blast through border crossings at high speed. A fake rescue is the catalyst to infiltrate the drug mob’s plans. Sheridan’s script brings a taut, jarring reality to the proceedings.

Director Stefano (“Gomorrah”) Sollima maintains a steady undercurrent of tension, undoubtedly tracking the characters’ uncertainty of their chances for success. Especially effective is the aerial photography coordinated by Dariusz Wolski, whose prior, equally excellent work included “Prometheus” and “The Martian.”

Subtly adding to the film’s tense ebb and flow is the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson, who died earlier in the year and to whom the film is dedicated.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.