Three years ago, audiences were pulled into the battle the United States is facing at the border when an idealistic FBI agent was recruited to a very proactive task force led by a CIA spook named Matt Graver. Graver’s objective: anarchy against the Mexican drug cartels with a man named Alejandro acting as his tip of the spear.
Now, the battle at the border intensifies as suspected Middle Eastern terrorists are being escorted over the border to significantly harm the U.S. and the joint chiefs look to Graver’s methods to determine a viable solution. Graver and Alejandro return to create chaos for the major Mexican drug lords in Sicario: Day of the Soldado.
Image by Lionsgate and Black Label Media
Of course I ventured to see this movie as I held the original Sicario in such high esteem in 2015. What we get in Day of the Soldado is another thing entirely as Stefano Sollima steps in to direct Taylor Sheridan’s follow-up.
Here we see Josh Brolin and Benecio Del Toro’s characters getting down and dirty with the cartels and thrust into unfamiliar situations compared to what we’ve seen in the first picture. We see Del Toro’s Alejandro’s backstory and protective nature come to the forefront as he takes a guardian role to Isabella Moner’s character and Brolin’s Graver put in a situation where his way of getting the job done is turned against him and he’s put in a situation he does not want to be in.
I’ve been wrestling with what I take away from Sicario: Day of the Soldado and I’ve come to the conclusion that the best word that I can use to describe it is: synthetic.
This movie goes to tremendous lengths to thrust audiences back into the explosive and relentless tension that is so staple to the first films success but the step-down in overall quality compared to the first feature is apparent.
Sollima does not have the expert vision and storytelling prowess that Denis Villenueve possess. Many of the major players from Sicario were missed, such as Emily Blunt, Roger Deakins, the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, Joe Walker and Patrice Vermette and while the cast and crew tried to elevate Sheridan’s plot to the heights of the first Sicario, it just wasn’t good enough in my eyes.
In fact, I had a hard time trying to find the point of why Sheridan wanted to come back and build upon an already epic story. I could not exactly wrap my head around the plot and the movie left itself unresolved so that it could all be told in a potentially third installment; Sheridan’s script was a little lost on me, I must admit.
It was interesting to see new twists on Brolin and Del Toro’s characters, Isabella Moner was good, Catherine Keener was decent, Elijah Rodriguez, Matthew Modine, Shea Wigham, Jeffery Donovan, Howard Ferguson Jr., Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Bruno Bachir, Jacqueline Torres; the cast was respectable as a whole.
Technically, this film lacked the gravitas and the power to live up to the first film’s standards. Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography is average, Hildur Guðnadóttir’s music is okay, Matthew Newman’s editing was clunky, Kevin Kavanaugh’s production design was stale, Marisa Frantz and Carlos Jacques’s art direction was good, Meg Everist and Daniela Rojas’ set decoration was respectable and Deborah Lynn Scott’s costumes were average.
I wanted to like Sicario: Day of the Soldado, but I felt like it was remarkably wasteful. Sicario, like Pacific Rim and Now You See Me, did not need a sequel, but got one and it pales in comparison to the original.