In 2015, director Denis Villeneuve released his sleeper hit entitled Sicario. It was a bold, tense, and thought-provoking film that dealt with the escalating border tension between the Mexican drug cartels and the United States government. Initially, I was somewhat hyped to see it after merely watching a trailer, but I didn’t really know what to expect after having only seen Villeneuve’s 2013 film Prisoners. Luckily, after viewing it my expectations were completely blown out of the water due to the film speaking to me on a much deeper and more powerful level. Not only did it feature intense and perfectly choreographed scenes of anxiety and suspense, but its message concerning the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico really hit home due to living in a border state nearly my entire life. So when a sequel entitled Sicario: Day of the Soldado was announced, I was very tentative due to my intense enjoyment of the original film.
Taking place after the events of the previous installment, known terrorists residing in the U.S. have been linked to Mexican drug cartels, smuggling narcotics across the border. CIA operative, Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), has been tasked with creating a civil war between numerous cartels in order to hinder their involvement with the terrorist activity. Graver enlists the help of hitman, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro), to assist in posing as cartel members, and kidnap the daughter of a well-known rival drug lord.
As mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of the original, and due to what happens in that film, I never thought that a sequel would be made. Luckily, even with the absence of Denis Villeneuve as director and Emily Blunt as lead actor, I was surprised at how faithful Sicario: Day of the Soldado is to the previous film. In other words, this sequel is a fantastic follow-up that authentically reproduces the same tone, musical score, and astounding scenes of tension, without being a mere carbon copy. In addition, while the story deals with many similar elements, thankfully it was able to veer off in fresh and exciting ways that kept me continually guessing all the way through.
Brolin and Del Toro shine in every possible way throughout the film. Both men continue to expel an overabundance of charisma while putting up a very tough and stern persona for everyone they encounter. Even as they are killing countless amounts of enemies, you can’t help but sympathize with them. This is especially true when it comes to Del Toro’s character and his relationship with the girl they kidnap – Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner). As the film progresses, you learn more about who Alejandro truly is through his interactions with Isabel. One scene, in particular, made me literally tear up due to its intense emotional impact. It might be a minor element, but its inclusion added a dramatic weight that helped to elevate the film to a much higher level.
Even though everything I’ve said up to this point has been completely on the positive side, I have one minor criticism. The final few moments of the film are very strong and leave a lasting impression; however, I also feel that those moments are executed in a somewhat clumsy manner. It’s nothing egregious, but it somewhat smells of unfortunate studio involvement. Nevertheless, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is smart, tense, and a worthy sequel that deserves to be seen.
About Sicario Day of the Soldado
Synopsis: The drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.
Director: Stefano Sollima
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Stars: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan
Runtime: 2 Hours, 2 Minutes