Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a stunningly topical sequel that almost lives up to the original. I personally had Sicario in my top 3 movies of 2015. The first Sicario is a masterpiece from one of the best writers, Taylor Sheridan, and best directors (Denis Villeneuve) of our time. Sheridan wrote this sequel and has now put together 4 straight incredible crime/western scripts in a row: Sicario, Hell or High Water, Wind River, and now Sicario: Day of the Soldado. It is a worthy follow up to the original and one of my favorites of the year.
The movie picks up on the US-Mexico border as migrants attempt to complete the crossing and avoid the Border Patrol. One of the individuals blows himself up when captured by Border Patrol leading to a much larger investigation. Shortly after that event there is a terrorist bombing in Kansas City and it is discovered that one of the men may have entered the country through the Mexico border using cartel connections. The first 10 minutes of this movie I couldn’t decide if the film was lucky to be released during the current news cycle or cursed. It is so topical and on the nose with the past few weeks stories in the news and arguments or fears from both sides of the immigration battle in our country.
The film reacquaints us the Matt played by Josh Brolin who has simply had an incredible 2018. Thanos, Cable, and now Matt. Three absolutely badass characters, all infused with so much Brolin that is drips off the screen. Matt is told that Cartels are now defined as terrorist organizations by the United States and therefore the rules of how they can be fought are less strict. Matt suggests a plan to destabilize the cartels and have them war with each other so that they do almost all the work of destroying themselves on their own. To complete this plan he enlists the help of Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) again. (Quick refresh: Alejandro was an attorney and his family was tortured and murdered by the Reyes cartel.) Matt’s team along with Alejandro concoct a plan to kidnap the youngest daughter of the Reyes cartel while posing as a rival cartel to start a cartel feud. Then we are off and running with plenty of tension and twists to earn the film’s run time.
The sense of dread that overwhelmed the first film which we watched through Emily Blunt’s character’s POV is mostly lost in this sequel. This time around we know what Matt and Alejandro are capable of and know what they are up to. The film lost a little bit of the magic of the first one due to the audience not having a reason to be concerned about whether or not these guys would turn on Blunt’s character at any moment. It is a minor gripe but I have to bring it up. But there are still plenty of intense scenes that play out as realistically as they possibly can for an action film. For example: when trained, elite soldiers with high class weapons face down a Mexican police force its over quickly. There aren’t long drawn out gun battles for the sake of having long drawn out gun battles. That is all due to Sheridan’s script that focuses on grounding the film in as much realism as he can while still delivering a Hollywood action blockbuster.
When the second trailer came out, I had many concerns about the story because it was marketed and edited to appear that Alejandro is protecting some girl like “Man on Fire”. I can tell you that the story works and the escalation of conflict is earned and fits each character. However, there were a few parts of the film that didn’t fully land for me as they seemed like weak commentary on the social/political situations they referenced. It seemed like they were too scared to really say anything concrete about the border/cartels/drugs/terrorism. Then again, maybe that is the point. There aren’t a lot of heroes in this movie. There are dangerous people you root for to stop the more dangerous people.
Everyone in the cast is great and gets their moment to shine. Sheridan’s script never slows down or feels boring, yet still allows for quite a few actual character moments. This is the one 2+ hour movie I’ve seen this year that didn’t feel like 2+ hours. That’s a credit to the writing and directing. While the new director doesn’t have the same pop as Villenueve (few do), he still stages some incredible sequences. The director has a great eye for the action scenes and you never felt lost or confused as to what was happening which is a really nice from some of the things I’ve seen this year.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado further cements Sheridan as one of the best writers in Hollywood, confirms that 2018 Movies belong to Josh Brolin, and that Benicio Del Toro needs to be in more stuff. I wish we had an Emily Blunt character to guide the audience and up the tension but the film didn’t suffer too much without it. If Sicario was an A+ then I’d give this sequel a B+ to A- grade which is better than 99% of sequels I see. If you like gritty crime, military, or drug movies then this is a must watch this year and could end up in my top 10.