What does this new drama-thriller tell us about a very real political situation taking place in the US?
When Donald Trump was sworn into office, many hoped that the firebrand politics he used to hoist himself to victory and incite a divisive frenzy across the country would diffuse. Critics mocked his ability to renegotiate the Iran deal, overhaul the medical system and the proposal of a wall between the US and Mexico.
While Trump still hasn’t got his wall, he has managed to drive a metaphorical one right through the middle of Mexican families crossing the border with a jarring immigration policy.
“These aren’t people,” he said, in an address at the White House in May, apparently referring to the Mexican criminals that the law was supposedly aimed at. “These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”
Established, ostensibly, to protect American citizens, the policy has separated children from their parents, funnelling them into holding pens across the country and turning Trump’s throwaway metaphor into a grim reality.
But in a world where cinema is usually an escape from reality, it seems strange that it falls to Sicario: Day of the Soldado to hold a mirror up to our society and show that, very often, everyday life can be just as shocking as its fictional reflection.
Set to hit cinemas on 28th June, the sequel to the 2015 crime thriller once again follows federal agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and former undercover operative Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro) as they tackle the illicit trafficking taking place on the US-Mexico border.
This time, rather than illegal goods, it’s humans that have become the commodity. When Alejandro decides to fight fire with fire by kidnapping the crime boss’ daughter, his view of humanity is turned on its head as he’s forced to consider whether or not the little girl will become human collateral damage in his hard-fought conflict.
“There’s a changing landscape in America that has left [criminals] looking for a new product to sell,” he said. “And I look at what that product is. That product, now, is human lives: the trafficking of people across the border.”
For director Stefano Sollima, the upcoming film was the chance to open a dialogue on the shades of grey within America’s immigration system.
“There is often a very fine line between criminality and law enforcement,” he noted. “I think this is a topic that’s actually real all over the world, not just here in the US. It’s how people are trying to escape from really poor places, and the dream to be in another place where they hope to have a better life. Yet unfortunately, this is rarely the case.”
But at a time so wrought with tension between the two countries, isn’t this just another film that will exploit stereotypical racial slurs on Mexican culture, and its gangsters biding their time on the border?
“It’s not,” Sollima disputed in an interview with Collider. “It’s a movie about American policy and the way that we police and [Sicario: Day of the Soldado] is that on steroids.”
Also starring: Isabela Moner, Catherine Keener and Jeffrey Donovan
Running time: 100 mins
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