“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” stars Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Catherine Keener. Released on June 29, 2018, the film has Matt Graver and Alejandro Gillick dealing with Mexican drug cartels.
The film is directed by Stefano Sollima, who also directed “ACAB - All Cops Are Bastards” and “Suburra”, and it is a sequel to the 2015 thriller, “Sicario”. A continuation of a popular franchise is, without a doubt, a no-brainer, but a follow-up to an Oscar-nominated, small-budget crime thriller? That’s a different story. “Sicario” was one of the films that put acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve on my brain-shaped map due to his slow, yet gripping, storytelling and style. When I heard that the film is getting a sequel, I was both surprised and concerned. For starters, I couldn’t even imagine how they’re going to continue the story that was introduced in the first film. More importantly, it’s hard for me to get excited for a follow-up that doesn’t involve Villeneuve and Emily Blunt. We still got del Toro and Brolin back in their respective roles, but for something like this, it’s going to take a lot more than these two talented actors to make a worthy continuation for both fans of the first film and people who enjoy crime thrillers in general.
The story follows Matt Graver (Brolin) and Alejandro Gillick (del Toro) as they team up with the CIA to take care of the Mexican drug cartels, who have been smuggling terrorists across the U.S.-Mexico border, by starting an all-out war between the rival cartels. The only way to accomplish this is to kidnap a drug lord's daughter, played by Isabela Moner. Things quickly went awry when their operation is exposed by the Mexican government, forcing Graver to order the young girl’s death, but Gillick has other plans in mind. Stefano Sollima was given the task to recapture the intense and gritty tone that made “Sicario” one of the best films of the decade, along with envisioning a story that’s as engaging and violent as its predecessor. For the most part, he was able to accomplish this type of task, but like many other sequels, it’s far from masterful. This is another film that relies heavily on dialogue with a few bits of R-rated violence here and there, so if you don’t pay attention, you might not understand what is going on. People who enjoy watching dialogue-driven thrillers may find this one suitable, but for those who want a blockbuster-sized action film, it can be a pretty big bore. Another reason for its downfall was the story itself. While it does provide a lot of interesting moments, it was having trouble keeping its thrilling aspect consistent, both action and dialogue. At one point, the violence was downright brutal and intense. At another point, the narrative structure was a tad underwhelming compared to its unnerving concept. Aside from that, the film is what you would expect from a “Sicario” film. Sollima really knew how to recreate this disturbing and violent world that Villeneuve introduced in “Sicario” and expands on it in all of its bloody glory. Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin delivered some impressive performances as Alejandro and Graver, respectively, along with Isabela Moner, who clearly showed a different side of her performance compared to her other roles. While the characters didn’t have a lot of qualities to make me want to remember them, the cast knows how to make each and every one of them compelling. The cinematography was also the main highlight of the film as it displays some striking detail on the locations and its depictions of violence. Even though the film didn’t quite live up to the original, it’s really easy for me to admit that the way it was shot was undeniably mesmerizing.
Overall, “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” wasn’t able to shoot its way to the top compared to its predecessor, but it’s a well-executed, yet brutal, thriller that’s almost as captivating as its style. Despite its underwhelming plot and its inconsistent thrills, the film’s cast and cinematography are enough to lure in adults who are familiar with the original. If you don’t like the first film because of the pacing and the violence, this one will definitely not win you over.