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Director: Stefano Sollima Starring: Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabel Moner, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener Running Time: 122 minutes


It can’t hurt a film to have a little ambiguity from time to time. Three years ago, the uncompromising crime-thriller Sicario took us to the darkest corners of the greyest areas of the US-Mexican border, a place where Mexican cartels and the US government could compete to get up to the shadiest shit. It was an intense film with a considerable combination of talent: Denis Villeneuve combining to great effect with Roger Deakins to put the suffocating effect of the crime scene on screen, a great score by the gone-too-soon Jóhann Jóhannsson and a script by Taylor Sheridan that was seemingly very thoughtfully assembled; like an Apocalypse Now for America’s drug war. On screen, the talents of Emily Blunt dragged viewers down with her own sinking feelings, an FBI agent turned bystander to the morally ambivalent machinations of the Department of Justice, embodied by the casual hoo-ra “consultant” Matt Graver played by Josh Brolin and the mysterious, violent sicario Alejandro Gillick, played by Benicio Del Toro. They were up to something, it was no good, and there was noting Blunt could do about.

Something suspicious happened towards the end of Sicario though. A balance shift, a feeling that the film was becoming a bit too enamoured of its hitman for its own good. If Matt and Alejandro come out on top at the end, does that make it a downer ending or a triumph? Who is the main character of the film again? Emily Blunt’s conspicuous absence from the sequel Soldado might tell its own story. The boys are back in town. Sicario is not sending us it’s best people. In a fraught political environment, this sequel feels even less wanted, depending on which side of the fence you’re on.

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Director: Taylor Sheridan Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene Running Time: 111 minutes


It would maybe be unfair to say that Wind River, the directorial debut of Sicario and Hell or High Water writer Taylor Sheridan, has bad intentions. A title card shown in the film’s final moments, which damningly reveals that the FBI does not keep statistics on missing Native American women, whose numbers remain unknown, aims to highlight the dismissive treatment of Native Americans by the US government. Which is probably evidence that the intentions here are good, but we all know where paths paved with good intentions tend to lead. Wind River occasionally taps into the same weary, dying heart of America melancholy that made Hell or High Water one of last year’s best films, but it’s difficult not to see its story as using the death of a young Native American woman to explore the pain and emotional redemption of Jeremy Renner, rather than the victims the film positions itself as having sympathy for. What this film wants to take a look at is certainly worth seeing it, but this is a story about a murdered Native American woman that looks down on women and sidelines Native Americans.

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Director: David Mackenzie Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham Running Time: 102 minutes


“I’ve never met nobody that got away with anything, ever”. So says Tanner Howard, one half of the pair of bank-robbing brothers in Hell or High Water. It’s an understandable world-view coming from a low-level criminal, a man recently released from prison to a slowly dying part of Texas, where nobody seems to have two dollars to rub together besides the banks and the oil wells. He’s determined to help tip the scales in favour of his brother Toby and Toby’s estranged family, but while the film follows the brothers sticking it to the banks and a pair of aging Texas Rangers pursuing them, Tanner’s words are a pretty clear statement of where things are going. Following on from last year’s Sicario, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has put together a world that’s morally grey, but not totally bleak. The kind of world where nobody gets away with anything, ever. Or almost nobody.

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