Sicario: Day of the Soldado is the follow up film from Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 film Sicario. Less Emily Blunt for the newest Sicario, the film has three things going for it; Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the script for the first film. Ironically, the fact that Taylor Sheridan returned to write the script was an even bigger reason to see this sequel than the two bankable stars. Taylor Sheridan, so far, has shown he is one of the best script writers working in Hollywood today. Although Sicario: Day of the Soldado is not as gripping as its predecessor, it is still a riveting thriller benefiting from Sheridan’s writing.
As I said, Emily Blunt’s character is not in this film which will disappoint some. But Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin reprise their characters as Alejandro and Matt Graves, respectively. Alejandro is still living beneath the radar, for the most part, exacting his revenge on the cartels who slaughtered his entire family. He has taken up with the United States government to be their go-to guy when his services are needed. After a terrorist attack in New Jersey kills scores of people, the United States recruits Matt Graves (Josh Brolin) to go to war. “Who are we going to war with?” Alejandro asks. “Everyone,” Matt replies with a cat-that-ate-the-canary smile on his face as his mouth goes into overtime on a piece of chewing gum.
Graves is no-nonsense and charges head first into just about any situation. But he does so with all of the right hardware for the job. Alejandro is more subtle and cautious. As was the case in the first Sicario, there are a lot of scenes where there is “dancing” on both sides of the border. The mission this time is to get the cartels to go to war with one another. How do you do that? Kidnap the daughter of the biggest kingpin from the biggest cartel. Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner) is the target but when the operation goes sour, Alejandro is stuck in Mexico while Graves is still in America. There are some other subplots but the meat of this film wisely takes place with Graves and Alejandro and the girl.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado was directed by Stefano Sollima, an Italian director who has mostly directed low budget horror films and lots of television. In fact, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is only his third feature length, big screen film but his grasp on what made the first Sicario such a good film is clearly visible; tension, lots and lots of tension. Sheridan’s script is smart and provocative and Sheridan, as always, has an eye and an ear for intelligent dialogue. He has created some new and interesting characters, most notably the character of Isabel played very well by Isabela Moner. She seems mature and wise beyond her young years. But this is Del Toro and Brolin’s game and these two command the screen.
There is not a dull scene when these two men are on screen. The action is gritty and authentic and their banter back and forth is not forced or contrived. As with the case with the first Sicario, there is a real, palpable sense of terror as Alejandro is trapped “behind enemy lines” so to speak. He is a tough guy and can handle himself but with his precious cargo, he is vulnerable. Graves can only sit back and monitor the situation for a stretch of the time. There is a supporting cast in Sicario: Day of the Soldado that is a bit underdeveloped most notably Catherine Keener as an aid to Matthew Modine’s character, James Riley, the Secretary of Defense. Shea Whigham graces the screen as an arms dealer and Jeffery Donovan returns as Graves’ right hand man all the way down to his thick rimmed glasses. They do what their roles require but not much else which was disappointing.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado features excellent performances by the three stars, though. Director Sollima knows how to shoot action sequences that work and make sense within the context of the story. Sheridan’s script is an asset to a film of this kind and he shows that he is in command of his ability to maintain characters and keep them interesting and even a bit sympathetic, still. The cinematography by Darius Wolski is gorgeous and the score by Hildur Guonadottir, a female composer from Iceland, is equally compelling. The film credits even reveal that Sicario: Day of the Soldado is dedicated to the original film score composer Johann Johannsson who passed away suddenly and most unexpectedly in February of 2018. Overall, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a hard hitting, violent and bloody film that has enough of the good elements from the first film to make this film work. It’s ending even leaves it open for a third Sicario. I would pay to see that.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado – **** out of 5
Sicario: Day of the Soldado – Rated R for language, graphic violence and gore, nudity
Sicario: Day of the Soldado – Run time is 122 minutes
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations nearest you.