After it is discovered that one of the cartels is smuggling terrorists into the US, Matt Graver reteams with Alejandro to pit the cartels against each other again.
Let me say right off that this is not as good as the original Sicario (2015),but, as far as sequels go, I was pretty satisfied. There were a few things that really irked me personally throughout my viewing, but I think, for the average moviegoer, this movie will be a rewarding sequel for fans of the first.
(SOME SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH)
Aided by cartels, terrorists sneak across the border to carry out their attacks. Matt Graver (Josh Brolin, Deadpool 2) is tasked to make it stop, by any means necessary. Graver contacts the morally murky Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and asks him to join his squad. Assisted by Steve Forsing (Jeffrey Donovan, The Changeling) and newcomer Cynthia Foards (Catherine Keener, Get Out),they try to start a war between the cartels. When Alejandro kidnaps Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner, Transformers: The Last Knight), a cartel leader’s young daughter, he realizes that his best option for escaping Mexico might be to kill her.
I loved Benicio Del Toro in this movie; he was fantastic reprising his role as Alejandro. He played it with the same quiet intensity as he did in the first one, and it worked wonders for this film, since he was essentially the main character of this story. I thought Josh Brolin did a fine job reprising his role as Graver. He played up his character’s cocksure smarminess, and once again it really worked for this movie. Those two actor alone carried this movie most of the way. Isabela Moner, who I’m rather unfamiliar with, was also really good in this movie. She’s only seventeen, but she knows how to act. She was a big part of this movie, and a lot of the film hinges on her likeability.
Taylor Sheridan’s script for this movie was pretty well put together. The characters feel much like they did in the first one. The situation is similar to the first (pitting Cartels against each other), but different enough to keep things interesting. The actual story was rather topical- there’s a lot of talk about the border/ crossing the border/ protecting the border, and right now, all of that seems to be in the news constantly. This film was shot during 2016, so it’s funny to think of how topical it really is, even two years after principal photography. The dialog, situations, and character motivations were, for the most part, just as good as the first one. Where my issues started with this script was towards the end of the film, when it seemed the producers weren’t looking to finish off this movie with a bang, so much as looking to set this series up for a sequel, which, it seems, is already in production. I have no problems with movies setting up for sequels, so long as its done properly and not shoehorned in, like this one felt. For example, the flash-forward scene at the end of this movie that felt completely out of place. I’m discussing character motivation for a major plot point in the next paragraph, so if you don’t want that spoiled skip to the So-So section…
Towards the end of the movie, Alejandro decides to go rogue in order to sneak Isabel across the border instead of killing her. It makes us like Alejandro a little more. He becomes a more sympathetic character, but I’m not entirely convinced by his actions. In the first movie, Alejandro is trying to get back at his wife and daughter’s killers, and he does so by taking brutal action: he murders a cartel head’s entire family while they eat dinner before murdering the cartel leader. That’s an insanely dark way to end a movie and it makes you realize what kind of moral ground Alejandro is willing to step over in order to get what he wants. In this film, he has qualms about killing one girl, and the only real reason seems to be that she reminds him of his daughter, which, okay, I get that, that’s fine… but… I can’t buy that he would put himself in such great danger, even turn against his allies in order to save the life of one girl. If, in the end of the first movie, we establish that Alejandro has no problems with killing younger children than this girl, then why should we believe he’d draw the line behind one he’s already crossed in the first one? It’s a relatively small qualm in regards to the rest of the movie, but it irked me a bit.
Obviously we didn’t have Villeneuve involved in this one, so right away, that’s a bit of a bummer. The director, Stefano Sollima, has directed a couple features before this one, but I can’t say I’ve ever even heard of them. He’s primarily a television director from the looks of his IMDb page, and that was the biggest problem with the film. There were certain scenes that looked amazing, but for the most part, this film looked like it was shot for television. The film doesn’t look terrible, but it looks a lot cheaper than the last one. Dariusz Wolski is no Roger Deakins (but who is?). There are lots of sequences where the characters are just ever so slightly off from the thirds. Other scenes when there’s either too much headspace or too little for no apparent reason whatsoever. The shots in the first one were filled with meaning, they were professionally polished, and they constantly drew you in. In this one, many of the shots were boring, even ugly, at times. Again, this is just another smallish bone to pick with the film, and it’s one I’m sure not many people will even notice unless they’re cinephiles.
I feel like Catherine Keener was here solely to set up her character for future installments. She was totally underutilized in this film. I also missed Emily Blunt and Daniel Kaluuya, but I’m not sure they would’ve fit well into this storyline anyways.
I went into this movie expecting pretty much what I got. I wish the script were a little better towards the end, I wish the camera work was a bit better, and I wish Villeneuve had directed this, but, hey, what can you do? This is a smartish sequel to a smarter movie; it’s still dark, though not as dark as the first, but that’s refreshing in the summer movie climate. Overall, I enjoyed Sicario Day of the Soldado. It’s not nearly as memorable as the original, but for a summer popcorn flick, you could do a heck of a lot worse.
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