Sicario: Day of the Soldado movie review — Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro are terrific in a vastly entertaining ride
In the Sicario sequel, The absence of Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins is palpable but Taylor Sheridan’s script keeps offering high-quality filmmaking.
Let us get the basics out of the way – does Sicario: Day of the Soldado work as an effective sequel? The answer is a resounding yes. Does the film improve on the original in any way – no it does not but it is still a dark and vastly entertaining ride. It is out in theatres today – so should you watch it? Of course, yes.
Soldado, as it was originally called before it was mangled into Sicario: Day of the Soldado, picks up a small amount of time after the events of the original film. America’s drug war against Mexico is still in full swing and now, the cartels have found a way to send over radical Islamists across the border to cause chaos. The military’s response, naturally, is to deploy brute force and cause chaos on the other side of the border – because America’s tactic has always been destabilisation. Enter Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) honcho Graver (Josh Brolin) who is handed the keys to the operation. He partners up with his old black ops buddy Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) to execute the mission.
The absence of Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins is palpable but Taylor Sheridan’s script keeps offering very high-quality filmmaking. Director Stefano Solima, known for his work on the outstanding Gomorrah and Suburra, brings a primaeval intensity to the sequel, abandoning the horror of the original film and replacing it with action-oriented thrills. Therefore, a lot of things explode in this film – bombs, cars, buildings, humans, emotions and vendettas. Things get violent on almost casual notes – a different approach from the original film where the violence is felt from the moral compass of Emily Blunt’s character. There is little redemption to be found here and every seemingly triumphant moment is actually a pyrrhic victory.
If anything the Sicario films would always be cherished for is their nuanced takes on genuine human reactions when up against arrogant viciousness. If the theme of the first film was about being helplessly stuck in a pointless war, here it is about how far one could go when one feels helpless and how a simple act of violence could change you forever. No one at the end of the film is the same person as they were in the beginning, a tactic that Sheridan understands and employs so well in all his scripts. This time we get much more of Alejandro the Soldado – the meaning of which is best left for you to discover – and del Toro delivers a tremendous performance with very few words. We also get a bit more information on his backstory and a more sensitive look at his character, which is a nice contrast to Graver’s stoic military coarseness executed with expected solidity by Brolin.
Soldado tells a complete story on its own and the final 10 minutes are the most absorbing closing moments of a film so far this year but the film does position itself as a midpoint in a trilogy before the credits roll. This could be a double-edged sword because unlike the first two films, we would know exactly what to expect in the next installment. The tactic of keeping the audiences in the dark is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Sicario movies and it is moot how the next movie would cross this bridge. Neither Solima nor Villeneuve is expected to return for the next film – which is a bummer but it opens up the possibility of someone like Jeremy Saulnier taking over. Until then, watch Soldado on the big screen and soak in its neo-Western feel badness.
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