Movie Review: Sicario: Day of the Soldado
The Sicario saga continues with the release of Sicario: Day of the Soldado over the weekend. The sequel was directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan, who also wrote the first film. The film follows the drug war at the U.S.-Mexico border after the cartels are linked to smuggling in a terrorist. The film sees the return of Josh Brolin as CIA agent Matt Graver, Benicio del Toro as hitman Alejandro Gillick, and Jeffrey Donovan as Steve Forsing. The film also introduces new characters played by Isabela Moner, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Catherine Keener, and Matthew Modine.
The film begins with an introduction to the situation at the border, where the cartels have taken to the profitable business of smuggling people into the States. When a group is captured at the beginning of the movie, one of the men uses a bomb to commit suicide. From there, the movie cuts to a scene in Kansas City, where three suicide bombers kill fifteen civilians in a grocery store. In response, the U.S. government suspects that one of the bombers was transported from the Middle East and smuggled into the country by the Mexican cartels. Political leadership give CIA agent Matt Graver permission to covertly start a war between the major cartels, which leads Graver to recruit Alejandro Gillick. However, after the team fakes a kidnapping of a cartel leader’s daughter, the plans begin to derail and threaten to reveal the Americans’ involvement.
So, as huge fan of the first film, I was more than a little excited to see this sequel. To its credit, while there are characters who are utilized again, the movie doesn’t require its audience to have seen the first film. The story stands on its own without prior knowledge of the first installment, and the beginning of the film is incredibly strong. The film does a great job of setting up why Graver and his team are being recruited, and if there is any reason to bring these brutal forces back together, a terrorist attack is the perfect reason. Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro’s performances were just as strong as the first time, and like before, they are complicated, dynamic characters that leave you wanting more. I thought the new cast members were excellent additions to the story with Isabella Moner truly proving herself as a force to be reckoned with. The raw and gritty tone was consistent with the first film, and it serves the subject matter well.
So, while there were several aspects of the film that I really enjoyed, this story is not as strong as it was in Sicario. It feels a little muddled in the middle, and I think it is not communicated well what happens internally with the cartels once the return of Moner’s character goes south. For the first half of the film to be so targeted and poignant, the second half seems lacking and less-focused. Also, I did not like that they undercut one of the most shocking moments in the film, but I know some people will like the fake out moment that this film utilizes. This is also a small complaint, but for all the talk of this cartel kingpin, it kind of bothered me that we never got to see him on screen.
Overall, I think that Sicario: Day of the Soldado ranks somewhere in the middle of all the films we have seen this year. It is gritty, bold, and brutal, and for it to have a different director, it still felt somewhat like a Denis Villeneuve film. This movie is still a tough watch with its difficult topic and unflattering look at the political spectrum. However, Taylor Sheridan manages to write these topics in a way that leaves them endlessly intriguing, and as long as he stays on board for a third installment, I am sure the Sicario saga will continue to flourish. I don’t believe the sequel lives up to the original, but I will be optimistic for a third film’s success, especially if Emily Blunt returns. I am not sure I can whole heartedly recommend this one for a theater viewing, but if you enjoyed the first movie and can stomach the violence and brutality, then I’m sure you will find Sicario: Day of the Soldado worth the watch.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.