Review - 'Sicario: Day of the Soldado'
Denis Villeneuve's Sicario is a near-perfect film that adeptly combines high tension, action, atmosphere and current-day hot-button topics. Sicario: Day of the Soldado re-tools the formula into a clunkier but still entertaining action film that might have been better off had it not been connected to the original in the first place.
In Sicario: Day of the Soldado, cartels are trafficking terrorists across the U.S.-Mexico border. In an effort to halt this from happening, Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) once again enlists Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) to assassinate an important figure and start a war in Mexico. However, Alejandro has an ulterior motive when he captures Isabel Reyes, the daughter of the man who is responsible for killing his family.
Sicario was a down-to-earth and believable film, whereas Day of the Soldado decides that since it can't function on Villeneuve's level, it will just keep the pace break-neck, plausibility be damned! That is not to say that this film is outright preposterous, but there are certain liberties taken here that make this sequel feel more like a movie that's simply trying to entertain, versus a realistic look inside a different, but all-too-real world. There's a lack of subtlety present here that is almost jarring when juxtaposed against the first film. In fact, if some small changes were made here and there, and the movie was re-titled, Day of the Soldado could be its own thing, and it probably would have benefited from not being compared to the original.
Still, once I had adjusted to the new direction the series was taking, I found myself enjoying most of what the film was dishing. The action here is strong, if not stronger than the action in the first film, which isn't saying that much due to the fact that the first film really wasn't an action movie, but still. There are some sequences here that had me on the edge of my seat, and director Stefano Sollima really knows how to orchestrate an intricate action sequence. While Day of the Soldado is more of an action movie, Sollima makes sure that the heroes still don't seem invincible, which is key to keeping the emotional stakes high during every shootout, of which there are many.
Speaking of heroes, the big players who return here are Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, reprising their roles and Matt Graver and Alejandro, respectively. If there's one thing that Soldado does right by it's predecessor, it's developing these two characters more and expanding their stories in an interesting way. Matt Graver and Alejandro each get interesting and unexpected character arcs that make them more interesting. Then we have Isabela Moner who plays Isabel Reyes. I was initially hesitant and leery about her role in this film as I generally feel like younger actors playing sidekick-like roles mostly fall flat and drag the pacing down. However, I came around to her by the end based solely on here ability to hold her own when paired with Benicio Del-Toro.
One of the biggest flaws with Sicario: Day of the Soldado is its reliance on a sequel that is still an uncertain thing. There are a few plot-threads set up in this film that are left dangling by the end and if this film isn't successful enough for a sequel, it will not be able to stand on its own. There are some promises made in this film that are meant to be answered in the planned third film, so don't go in expecting a complete experience, and since both Sicario films seem to skirt on the edge of being successful financially, it's still very possible that we don't get a third entry.
Despite how disappointing it is to not have a stand-alone experience, it cannot be denied that Sicario: Day of the Soldado is still an immensely entertaining experience, despite its obvious inferiority to the original. Here's hoping that they make enough to produce a third film and finish out the series on a strong and satisfying note.