Sicario: Day Of The Soldado – the sequel to 2015 thriller Sicario – follows the escalating war against drugs across the US/Mexico border, and the bloody fight between cartels and the American government to gain control of the situation.
In an illegal covert operation, Alejandro is hired by the Americans to kidnap Isabela, a Mexican kingpin’s young daughter, to inflame the conflict between cartels.
As CIA agent Matt Graver, played by Josh Brolin, tells him: “You’re going to help us start a war… With everyone.”
But Del Toro explains that this is a character driven film, centred around one man doing the right thing rather than an exploration of drug wars and immigration.
“The heart of this film for me is really seeing how a heartless hitman could suddenly have a conscience and it’s partly though his actions – getting a medicine through what he’s doing to an innocent girl – which is a mirror of what happened to his own daughter, and that journey shatters the shell around his heart.
“When he’s given the order to get rid of the girl he does the right thing – makes the right moral choice.”
And to up the stakes, Isabela’s father is not just any cartel kingpin – he’s the man who in the first film murdered Alejandro’s entire family.
As the film shows illegal immigrants being trafficked over the border by the busload, it’s impossible to ignore the parallels with the current US immigration debate.
Del Toro says: “To me, the fact that these characters exist in that [border] world makes it a character driven piece…
“My character decides to cross the border, but he’s not the normal person crossing. Those people are running away from very difficult circumstances, not like my character. Some people take advantage [of their desperation] – some ‘bad coyotes’ – they do it for money and they don’t care.”
In the film there is often a very fine line between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, with governments, police, soldiers and criminals all fighting their own private battles.
Del Toro explains: “I think in a way you start rooting for [Brolin’s] character and my character, but they started the fire. It’s like – they look like they’re putting out the fire, but they were the arsonists.
“That’s what stories do, it plays with that expectation, and I think that’s done cleverly by the writer Taylor Sheridan. I can watch a movie like Frankenstein and I root for Frankenstein but is he the monster really? Or is it the doctor?”
During the film, the fictional US president is said to change US foreign policy to avoid impeachment.
So, does Del Toro think the real US president Donald Trump could face impeachment during his tenure? On that, the actor is diplomatic.
“I don’t know – I just don’t know – that’s not up to me. I haven’t done enough research,” he said.
Sicario: Day Of The Soldado, which also stars Josh Brolin and Isabela Moner, is released in UK cinemas on Friday 29 June.