After the enthusiastic critical response to 2015’s incendiary crime thriller, Sicario, it was hardly surprising that the producers would hope for lightening to strike twice by commissioning a follow-up. But with the original film’s lead, Emily Blunt and director, Denis Villeneuve unavailable to return, high expectations were muted slightly. Fortunately, Sicario 2: Soldado is a triumph, focusing on mysterious hitman, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) and shadowy CIA operative, Matt Graver (Josh Brolin).
This time around the U.S Government suspect that Mexican drug cartels are trafficking terrorists across the border. Their solution is to kidnap the teenage daughter of a kingpin to incite a war between the cartels.
DIY met with Benicio Del Toro, a man so cool he wore a suit while the rest of London were sweltering in the the heat and didn’t excrete even a single bead of sweat whilst waxing lyrical about Alejandro’s extraordinary arc in the film.
Beware - there are some big SPOILERS for Sicario 2: Soldado below.
The first film felt so self-contained that no one was expecting a sequel. How did you feel when you heard there was going to be a second instalment?
Well I was little sceptical for the same reason. I felt that Sicario was a good movie, tight. It grabbed you and just kicked you out the door, a good ride. So I was sceptical and then we heard that a big part of the group that made Sicario was not coming back that was kind of like another reason to be sceptical about doing a sequel. And then I got the script and it was original and ambitious and unpredictable. Ambitious because suddenly there was one moment where I thought: “Woah! That’s ambitious.” and it was the fact of having my character do a 180. I wanted to believe that, how could he do a 180? Because in the original he was single-minded and we know what caused that. Doing that 180 was kind of complicated and then suddenly I saw it on the page. If we were gonna analyse his actions, here’s a man who suffers from that pain that he lost his daughter and wife to cartel violence by a Sicario. Part of the covert operation that he needs to do was to kidnap the daughter of a leader of a drug cartel, an innocent 15 year old about the same age that his daughter was when she was kidnapped and killed. Then he puts this girl through the same experience of horror and cruelty that his own daughter probably went through when she was kidnapped and he starts to behave like those men that he despises. Then he “saves” her. Something he was not able to do in real life with his own daughter.
It’s redemption for him in a sense?
In a weird, confusing, upside down way he saves the innocent girl that is representing his daughter. And then the girl runs away and he’s the first one to go: “I saved her she’s gotta stay alive.” So he goes and finds her, he kills a dude, they get in a new truck he’s driving and she goes: “Hey did you wanna kill me?” he goes: “No. I’m not the only one who wants to kill your dad.” They get to this place where they’re met by this Campesino and we find out that [Alejandro’s] daughter was deaf. I’m talking about all the things that are happening to this guy - a day in the life of this hitman - that has to flip him to be like a good guy. So now he finds himself speaking the language of his daughter for the first time since she was killed. He goes into the house of this Campesino and what does he see? He sees a mirror image of his past life; husband, wife and daughter but backwards, they’re deaf and the daughter can hear. And he says: “I understand different worlds.” He looks at the girl he kidnapped and saved who represents his daughter in some way and then he gets a phone call that says: “Kill her.” I believe he would have gone: “Fuck you I’m not killing her”.
So it didn’t feel like a stretch to you, the way he acts…
No. Because of all these steps that I’m talking about, the steps that flip him, that could flip the character, because those flips are tricky.
As you’re reading the script you’re like: “I get this guy.”
It wasn’t the first read, it took me about 3 [laughs]. And then I went: “Oh okay, okay, okay”.
There’s a sensational scene in the movie which I have to talk about without getting too deep into spoiler territory. You’ve got like a bag over your head and it’s probably one of the most uncomfortable scenes I’ve seen in the cinema in a long time, it is hard to watch. How was it for you to film that?
It was terrible. I wouldn’t do it again. It was pretty bad. Your hands are tied, not in front, behind because we had the option but in reality they would have tied him with his hands behind his back that’s what you do, that’s when you’re most vulnerable. Ok so we gotta be behind my back, my feet are tied, I can’t move. Not only that, I got the shirt over my face and I’m gagged. There’s two things that happen, it’s really uncomfortable and difficult to breath because saliva starts to collect because your mouth is open and it starts to go up. You know when you jump in a swimming pool and suddenly the water comes up in your shirt, that’s the same thing that kinda happens. I have a couple of great people, a friend of mine who was there helping me out and I had a stunt guy who was there helping me out. And we had a code because it got to a point when I couldn’t breathe and it got really, really, really scary because I go: “Fuck I’m not gonna die today.” But it got really scary because I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t look and I couldn’t jump and I couldn’t move. If I move, I go down to the ground. So we came up with a code which is like every time if I flip my body this way I needed to be disconnected right away. And we had to do that like twice. And I can’t see and am expecting my people are watching me every second.
I’m not going to be doing that anytime soon…
You don’t wanna do that, you don’t wanna do that!
There is an ending to the movie that suggests we could be in for a third instalment. Have you spoken to Taylor [Sheridan - Screenwriter] about maybe what he has in store for Alejandro?
I wouldn’t tell you! [laughs] But I tell you what, no I haven’t. But I wouldn’t tell you if I had. But we haven’t. What I did talk to Taylor about was when we were doing Sicario 2: Soldado was that before when he was writing it or finishing it or whatever we had a conversation and he said he always saw the Sicario movies as a trilogy and I would be really excited and it would be a lot of fun to see where Taylor Sheridan would take this movie. But I [Alejandro] did a 180 in this one…
So you wonder where’s he got left to go?
Well maybe we’ll at least get to see what terrible shoes Josh Brolin gets to wear in a third instalment.
Right, right those Crocs [laughs].
Sicario 2: Soldado is released in UK cinemas on 29th June.