2015’s Sicario wasn’t just a surprise hit, the Emily Blunt lead crime drama made a lot of critics “Best of” list for that year.
The sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is missing Blunt as its lead character. This story focuses on Graver (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) on a mission to start a cartel war in Mexico. This mission involves kidnapping the daughter of a drug lord. When the mission falls apart, Graver is ordered to kill Alejandro and the young girl.
What made Sicario such a great film was its plot being cloaked in mystery. Kate (Blunt) was constantly in the dark about what was going on and what the main objective was. As the story progressed, the audience, and Kate, were able to see how all the pieces fit on the chessboard.
Sadly, this isn’t the case Day of the Soldado. The film does its best to imitate its predecessor. It has a similar ominous opening that involves an explosion. There’s a side story with a kid helping transport people across the Mexico-US border. Not to mention there’s tons and tons of violence. That’s where the comparisons stop.
There’s no real “villain” in this story. Grazer and Alejandro were the antagonist the first time around. That dynamic made for tense movie since they were working closely with the protagonist. The drug cartels they go up against are faceless goons with guns. The US government circles the story but doesn’t fully commit as the evil government entity. The Mexican government has a moment or two but they disappear rather quickly. The big Grazer vs. Alejandro showdown the movie teases isn’t much of a showdown.
Sicario traded a gritty look at the drug war for a fragmented story about the US starting a cartel war. It’s an uneven shoot-em up masquerading as an avant-garde action movie with something meaningful to say. Underneath the political buzzwords and the startling imagery, there’s really nothing there. It’s noisy film with nothing to say.
Del Toro gives a very strong performance as Alejandro. A performance that many should be talking about will likely be drowned out by a sequel that’s not sure what kind of movie it wants to be.
For fans of violent action and bullets flying through windows, Day of the Soldado is perfect for you. It’s not the exhilarating action from the first film. There are plenty of well shot action sequences but none of the magic from the first film makes its way into those scenes.
The plot doesn’t really go anywhere. There are plenty of moments when it feels like it should but it the story immediately jumps to another story. There are some very timely themes that show up, yet the characters never delve into them or their implications in the story.
The Summer of Brolin continues with another great performance. He’s playing another good guy/bad guy/maybe good guy role. Brolin shines in these roles, maybe he’s finally found his calling. The real star of the film is Isabela Moner who plays Isabel Reyes. She has a few really good scenes thanks to her ability to do very good acting with her facial expressions and eyes. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of this talented young actress in the near future.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is an average action movie. It feels like less than average because the first film is iconic. For action fans, there’s a lot to like but most of the film is forgettable.