Cast: Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan
Director: Stefano Sollima
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: In Sicario: Day of the Soldado, the series begins a new chapter. In the drug war, there are no rules–and as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border, federal agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) calls on the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), whose family was murdered by a cartel kingpin, to escalate the war in nefarious ways. Alejandro kidnaps the kingpin’s daughter to inflame the conflict–but when the girl is seen as collateral damage, her fate will come between the two men as they question everything they are fighting for.
Following the immensely successful and intense Sicario, Sicario: Day of the Soldado picks up right where the first film left off. One of the things that made the first film so successful was the direction of superstar director Denis Villeneuve. Now that he was not involved in the sequel, would the quality start to drop off? While the quality dips in the third act, the film is just as rigid, thought-provoking, and original as the first one.
After it has been discovered that Mexican drug cartels have been smuggling terrorists across the U.S. border, CIA agent Matt Garver (Brolin) is given free rein to do whatever it takes to get the drug cartels to go to war with one another. He recruits his old friend Alejandro (del Toro), due to his grudge against the cartels from the first film and tells him he is free to anything in his power to get his personal revenge while also working with the U.S. government to help them accomplish their goal. They decide to kidnap the daughter of one of cartel leaders Isabela (Moner) and use this to pit the cartels against one another. One of the things that immediately stands out about the film is that it does an amazing job of setting the tone immediately. Very few films have the guts to go to the lengths that Sicario: Day of the Soldado does within the first five minutes and it rivals that of the border crossing scene from the first movie. All of the action sequences are thrilling and well-shot, and do a spectacular job of being violent not for the sake of violence, but to show just how real and intense these scenes are. The first movie had legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins working on it, and even though he did not return for the second movie, the work of Dariusz Wolski does not cause a drop off in any way. Outside of that, I was thoroughly impressed by the choices with the lighting and costume design. The original film had multiple scenes where the backdrops and lighting represented the themes and allegiances within the film. As this film progresses and the sides gets more complicated, we see that the story can be told based on what the characters are wearing, the way they are lit, and the backdrop that they are up against. I love when films can tell a story without explicitly telling a story, and Sicario: Day of the Soldado has that down to an artform. One of the things that disappointed me however was I felt as though the ending never followed through with the rest of the story. There was an option for this film to take an ending that would have blown me away, and honestly would have fit the grim, dark reality that the film had depicted for the previous 100 minutes. Instead, I felt like the film cheapened out and focused on setting up a sequel instead. Do not get me wrong, I would love to see a sequel for this movie, but there were multiple opportunities for the film to take a dark turn at the ending, and it never delivered. It is a shame, because the other two acts are gripping and show us how desperate a situation like this could be, but the third act never follows through on them.
Overall, Sicario: Day of the Soldado captures most of the magic of the original while also adding fresh, thrilling moments to the franchise. Brolin and del Toro serve as excellent foils for one another are an amazing case study on the difference of violence and perspective. While the third act is nothing to write home about, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a fierce, afflicting movie that will hopefully continue with a sequel that is just as enticing in the future.
Overall Score: 7/10