Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a near-perfect film. A more condense and precise version of the first film, expanding on its characters and murky world in a way that doesn't make it feel like a cash grab sequel. Give me more.
Denis Villeneuve‘s Sicario was a dark and twisted slow-burner tale of corruption and the seedy underworld of the drug cartel. It benefited from Villeneuve’s direction, but prospered the most from Taylor Sheridan‘s script and a trio of ace performances, led by Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is not as slow-burning, yet it doesn’t short-change its story or characters for mindless action. Stefano Sollima‘s sequel moves much quicker, yet isn’t afraid to dive even deeper into the murky world of corruption, politics and the hitmen and cartel that fit in-between.
Day of the Soldado follows a botched kidnapping that is meant to send a message and start an all-out war between the U.S. government and the cartel, while also attempting to label it as a terrorist manhunt. Daughter of a power Mexican drug cartel (Isabela Moner) is captured by agent Matt Graves (Josh Brolin) and the Sicario hitman himself Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro).
This time, Alejando is let loose off his chain and simply told to star a war with everyone by agent Graves, who again is just taking even bigger orders from the higher ups, including the POTUS.
Some might be confused by what kind of dark and twisted message is being sent by writer Taylor Sheridan and director Stefano Sollima this time, but I saw Day of the Soldado as an engaging exercise in defining terrorism and the shifty politics that comes with trying to do the “right thing” without ever really grasping what the “right thing” even is to begin with.
Sollima’s film also sheds some light on the Mexican/US border and how the cartels simply use people as sheep, while the US thinks they can simply build a wall and end all of its troubles. The brilliance in Day of the Soldado‘s subtext is that it basically proves that none of that really matters, unless you solve your problems with the cartel, with terrorism and with the understanding that the people crossing the border might not be as big of a problem as the people trying to put an end to it. I’m not one to get into politics within a review, but it is a fascinating stance to witness.
As a sequel, Day of the Soldado functions rather perfectly in continuing the now-saga known as Sicario. The first film was mostly shot through Emily Blunt‘s character’s perspective, which gave the audience a look at both Graves and Alejandro, but never really put you into their head.
Day of the Soldado is exactly what it’s titled — the day of the soldier, which in this case is both Alejandro and even Graves to a lesser extent.
It’s about Alejandro because it shows you his life, from inactive to active, from hunting to becoming the hunted. Benicio Del Toro gives a rock-solid performance in this film, showing us the raw predator that Alejandro can become if he has to, while also peeling back and showing us his more sensitive side, while protecting Isabel. You can tell he still has his own limits and boundaries and ideas of right and wrong, but he’s also way past giving cartel a chance to explain themselves.
Likewise, the film also gives us a better look into Josh Brolin‘s Graves. This time around Graves isn’t just another “clean up the mess” merc that is hired out to the highest government official. He clearly has his orders, but he also has his alliances and friendships. There are points in this film that his character makes bold decisions that don’t quite add up to what we are used to and that works, because Graves is just as human as the rest of us and sometimes a tough call can weigh him down.
Day of the Soldado does a great job shooting from a soldiers perspective and scaling back to the larger problems, only to reveal that the higher ups (whether it’s a drug cartel boss or a government official) are so quick and easy to burn things to the ground without a care in the world. Thus, the soldier is left to deal with all of the different outcomes.
The ending is a little more open-ended then I would have liked, because sequels are almost never a sure-thing these days, but I really do hope that we return to this world once more to cap off the trilogy.
Director Stefano Sollima steps in for Denis Villeneuve and does so with the perfect motion. He doesn’t linger on his shots as much or try to soak in all of the beauty in the disgust, but he still paints a rather unique picture that covers the underworld of the drug cartel wars.
Taylor Sheridan‘s script is just as impressive as it was for the original film. Between Sheridan and Stefano, Day of the Soldado becomes a much quicker sequel that isn’t afraid to dive right in and start firing bullets. Not once does it undermine its characters or sell out to be another mindless action flick and instead sticks to its guns and continues to be an unsettling look into the world of corruption created by both filmmakers.
I personally enjoyed Day of the Soldado more than Sicario and am so thankful to be living in a world where Del Toro and Brolin have their own Sicario franchise. This is the most unlikely sequel to have happened in recent years and I’m all for more.