Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Sicario was one of the best films of 2015, and further proof that Denis Villeneuve is a director to be reckoned with. Three years later, we get Sicario: Day of the Soldado, a film that further explores the complexities of the U.S.-Mexico border, as the cartels are now trafficking terrorists across the line, and Federal Agent Matt Graver, with the help of the mysterious Alejandro, are back to shake things up. Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin and Jeffrey Donovan reprise their roles, and they’re joined by Catherine Keener, Isabel Moner and Elijah Rodriguez.
A Different Take
Taylor Sheridan is back as the screenwriter; however, Stefano Sollima replaces Villeneuve in the director’s seat. There’s nothing glaringly bad about this film, but with the absence of Villeneuve and Roger Deakins, as the cinematographer, there’s a noticeable drop in quality. The action is definitely gritty and gory, but you never really feel the same level of tension or danger as you do in the first film. All of the action sequences are abrupt, which is rather realistic, but the build-up to them isn’t enough to pack a punch that knocks you flat. Even if this was a stand-alone film, stripped of any comparisons to the first, it would still have that issue.
Now, the plot of this film is more complex than the first, but the way the script is handled feels a bit disjointed sometimes. There are a few subplots in the film that somewhat come together, but the fusion of those subplots might’ve been connected more naturally in better hands. Having said that, it’s all still very interesting and should have you talking after the film is over. However, I do have one significant gripe with the very end of the film because it goes against both characters mindsets and really just feels tacked on for a cleaner segue to the third film.
Del Toro and Brolin Are On Point
Despite its issues, the acting is top-notch, especially from Del Toro and Brolin, which is really no surprise. Del Toro as Alejandro is not as cold as he was in the first film, as he is growing, yet there is still a darkness in him that he seems to very much wants to divorce himself from, but can’t. We get to know a little more backstory about Alejandro and his tragic character is brought to life beautifully by Del Toro’s talents. On the other hand, there’s Brolin as Agent Graver, who is as funny and diabolical as ever. He’s gotten his hands dirty so much that nothing will be able to wash it off, and he knows it. This time, we get to see Brolin in more action, and he plays off Del Toro very well.
The rest of the cast give solid performances, especially Isabel Moner, who plays the daughter of a cartel king and Jeffery Donovan, a member of Graves’ team that serves as the comic relief. Catherine Keener does well too, yet she doesn’t have a whole lot of screen-time.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado doesn’t have any moral compass, and that’s probably the most interesting part of the film. We have no one to root for, we can only root for moments, making it very close to reality. It’s a bleak world we’re dropped into once again, but it’s hard to turn away from the violence and issues presented. I’ll be cautiously waiting for the third installment if only to see Del Toro and Brolin play their morally ambiguous characters one more time.