Benicio del Toro: People forget these are human beings with a heart and a lot of them are desperate for help
With the Mexican drug cartels believed to be trafficking humans, the Sicario team are called in. Benicio del Toro tells Kerri-Ann Roper about his return to the action role and whether or not a third instalment could be in the pipeline
Benicio del Toro is looking friendly, relaxed and approachable. Given some of the gritty characters he has played over the years, the last description may not be one any of them would approve of.
The 51-year-old Puerto Rican-born star, famed for multi-layered characters in films such as The Usual Suspects, 21 Grams and more recently in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, returns to the big screen as a lawyer turned hitman in the second instalment of the Sicario films, Soldado.
Fresh from the first film, in which his character, Alejandro, was hell-bent on revenge after the murder of his family by drug cartels, the sequel sees him team up with another returning hardman character, Josh Brolin, who reprises his role as federal agent Matt Graver.
"We see the beginnings of his rehabilitation," del Toro says in the London hotel where we're meeting to talk about the film and about how much we'll start to fathom Alejandro's complex nature.
"I think we start to see that there's a conscience inside of this hitman."
This time Alejandro and Graver plot the kidnap of a young girl, Isabela Reyes, the daughter of a drug cartel boss (played by 16-year-old Isabela Moner of Transformers: The Last Knight fame) on the orders of the American government, which suspects the Mexican drug cartels are trafficking terrorists into the US.
An element of the film that will likely grab headlines centres on families from Mexico trying to cross illegally into the US.
The storyline is eerily close to the immigration furore that has grabbed international headlines for nearly two weeks. Following intense criticism over the family-separation situation, President Donald Trump reversed the policy to stop families entering the US illegally at the Mexican border from being ripped apart.
Did del Toro ever imagine the script would come so close to being echoed in reality?
He admits the timing is "weird". "I don't know how it will affect the film, the release of the film," he says. "The timing - we can't control that, it's like the weather.
"But these issues and these problems, they've being going on for a long time and there's got to be a solution that needs to be fair, a solution with empathy.
"I think most of these families, when they make that decision to leave their own country, their culture, their language, to go to another country where they don't know anybody, with nothing... I think people think that's an easy decision, but that's not an easy decision.
"That's a really scary decision and when people put themselves in that situation... you have to be in a really horrible place to make that decision."
"I think people forget that these are human beings with a heart and a lot of them are desperate for help."
The film's Italian director, Stefano Sollima, says human trafficking strikes a chord beyond the US and Mexico.
"I think this is a topic that's actually real all over the world. It's the same in Europe," he adds.
"It's how people are trying to escape 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."
The story sees both Alejandro and Graver faced with a burdensome decision. Does del Toro think Alejandro attains any sort of moral redemption?
"I don't know where he'll go - that's up to the writer - but I do believe at least we feel there is a moral redemption," he says.
"But is he innocent? He's not innocent - he's committed crimes - but we can spare his life."
The ending hints at a third instalment, something del Toro would approve of.
"When I talked to Taylor [screenwriter Taylor Sheridan]during the filming of Soldado, he confessed to me that he always saw the Sicario movies as a trilogy, so you know, we took that second step so hopefully we'll move to the third step.
"I'm really interested to see where the writer would take this story and the characters".
Sicario 2: Soldado is in cinemas now