Taylor Sheridan is my hero. He's probably the finest screenwriter working at the moment.
He made his explosive debut with Sicario in 2015, and then followed it up with Hell or High Water and Wind River.
An astonishing run of high quality movies marked by a flair for action, a sense of place, and strong characterisation.
So when I learned of this new film, I was very apprehensive. Not only was it Sheridan's fourth script, it was a sequel. And sequels are notoriously hard to pull off. I took my seat in the cinema both excited and braced for an almost inevitable disappointment.
This film, which in America is called Sicario: Day of the Soldado and in Britain Sicario 2: Soldado (both rather cumbersome titles) initially seemed to me to have a couple of difficulties to overcome...
Sure enough, it begins in the familiar brutal world of the US-Mexican border. The first image is of a rugged, primeval landscape which could be from a million years ago — and then a helicopter bobs into view, a menacing artefact of modern technology.
The story which is subsequently set out at first seems to hinge on intertwining the Mexican drug cartels with Islamic extremism. Hmm... Was this a contrived attempt to inject topicality?
More worryingly, this new film focuses on two characters returning from Sicario — Benicio del Toro's revenge-driven hitman Alejandro and Josh Brolin's cynical black-ops warrior, Matt. But it doesn't feature Emily Blunt as Kate.
In the original movie Kate was the anchor, the moral compass of the film. Whereas Alejandro and Matt are hardened, ruthless and accustomed to the nightmarish world they inhabit, Kate was still a normal person with values and feelings.
What would it do to the new movie to remove her from the equation?
Well, I need not have worried — about this, or anything else.
Sicario 2: Soldado, or whatever the hell you want to call it, is spellbinding. It is a masterpiece. I loved every moment of it.
Taylor Sheridan has done an astonishing job of constructing a film in which every scene has something fresh or fascinating to it. And it grips you relentlessly.
Sheridan does a superb job of enlisting the audience's sympathies and keeping us on the edge of our seat. There's also memorable characters, unforgettable action sequences — including another terrifying cross-border excursion — and some great dialogue ("Beautiful day." "Yeah, blue skies... high calibre weapons... I just love getting out of the office").
Other than Taylor Sheridan, most of the creative team has changed from Sicario.
The director this time is the Italian Stefano Sollima, making his English language feature debut. The cinematographer is Dariusz Wolski, who frequently works with Ridley Scott and recently shot All the Money in the World.
The composer of Sicario, Johann Johannsson, died tragically young and he has been replaced by his collaborator the Icelandic cellist Hildur Guanodottir.
They all do a terrific job. But I regard this as Taylor Sheridan's movie. And it's a triumph.
In a summer multiplex environment congested with superheros and space ships, this is one sequel you mustn't miss. An exciting and disturbing action movie which manages to be moving, profound and thrilling all at once.
(Image credits: posters from Imp Awards.)