Sicario: Day of the Soldado - 2018
Director(s): Stefano Sollima
Writer(s): Taylor Sheridan
Cinematography by: Dariusz Wolski
Editor(s): Matthew Newman
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Catherine Keener, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, David Castañeda and Elijah Rodriguez
Synopsis: The drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro (IMDB).
Back in 2015, Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water and Wind River) penned one of the better scripts of that year and managed to get a stellar team behind his first movie. Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners and Blade Runner 2049), cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall and Fargo), composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (Arrival) and editor Joe Walker (12 Years a Slave) all lent their talents behind the camera to create an all-star team that delivered on all fronts. This time around Sheridan is the only talent behind the camera to return for the sequel and while the movie, technically speaking, isn’t a drop-off in quality, you can feel the absence of the talents behind the camera. As for the talents in front of it, Emily Blunt is the only one not returning as Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro returned to reprise their roles, and I missed her character’s POV as well.
The story centers once again around the U.S./Mexico border as our government is fighting a war in the shadows with the cartels. This time around the triggering point of the conflict are terrorist attacks which are believed to have been facilitated by the crossing of the border with the help of said cartels. The government gives Brolin’s character, agent Matt Graver, the green light to start a war among the cartels by kidnaping the daughter of one of the heads of the cartels. Alejandro, played by Benicio Del Toro, is once again recruited to do the dirty work and get his ongoing kick of revenge he sought out in the first installment. Things don’t go according to plan and we have a movie.
Look, this isn’t a bad movie. It’s very well acted. The pacing is good. The shot composition is excellent. It has clever moments of editing and the score is decent, even if it’s a bit too repetitive. My main issue with this movie, outside of the ending that is just plain bad in my eyes, is the lack of a vehicle for the audience and a countering perspective to the evil of working in the shadows. Emily Blunt served as the anchor for the audience as she was dropped into this world where the extremes are accepted and the lines are so blurred that you can’t distinguish the good guys from the bad. We see the moral dilemma and her internal struggle to complete her mission while keeping her soul intact. With this sequel, we don’t really have a true protagonist and we don’t really have a moral dilemma for almost the entire movie. We just sit back and watch as dark and intense events occur with zero connection to them since we know that both characters live in the extreme so their actions are always expected and not a surprise.
Quick note: Benicio Del Toro is an amazing actor and gives weight and humanity to what could be just a straightforward hitman with a dark past.
The first movie also had a great use of dual storytelling as Emily Blunt serves as a pawn soldier in the plans of the U.S. government, represented by Brolin, and the Mexican police officer serves as a pawn soldier, both their stories perfectly culminating in the climax of Alejandro’s storyline. Both are forced into this world by different circumstances and both try to survive within it, one trying to save her morals and the other his family. This time around, Sheridan tried to replicate this dual storytelling following the main plot of Brolin/Del Toro with the recruitment of a young teen into the world of Coyotes (people that help illegals cross the border). Yet they never naturally connect, thematically, and the climax in the end felt forced and somewhat implausible if we apply .001% of reasoning.
Quick note: the first one’s events felt natural to the story and to the character’s motivations. All of them act according to their morals, but in this one the actions towards the end by one of the characters felt out of place and forced to continue the story. It doesn’t inform his character and it somewhat betrays his nature.
Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado is a competent sequel to one of the best movies made in this decade. It focuses more on the action instead of the character drama within the underground war between the U.S. government and the drug cartels. While the action is still dark, gritty and unrelenting, I wouldn’t call it popcorn action – you are so detached as an audience member since you really don’t identify with the extremes represented throughout. The lack of a clear protagonist, dated political views, implausible ending and the big shadow of the original leaves this sequel feeling underwhelming. Benicio Del Toro is why I love movies.
Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado is currently in theaters. Wait for it to hit your streaming device.
If you like this review let me know in the comment section down below. Subscribe to my newsletter so you are always up to date with all my reviews. Also, follow me over at Twitter (@yILovemovies) or over on Facebook if you want to have a conversation about movies.