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Sicario: Day of the Soldado – Movie Review

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Sicario: Day of the Soldado – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

Sicario presented a thrilling exploration of the war against drug cartels, done in Denis Villeneuve’s trademark cold and technically proficient style. For its sequel, new director Stefano Sollima continues the political themes with a similar sense of unflinching tension. There are surprises as events go horribly wrong and yet the proper character development is displayed throughout Sicario: Day of the Soldado. There is a topicality that makes certain elements even more unnerving, but this isn’t a story that should have been sanitized. There are moral and ethical questions presented in the film, alongside the many moving chess pieces of its plot.

Day of the Soldado contains three interconnecting storylines, although one ends up feeling unneeded. The political decision making is mostly seen through the eyes of Josh Brolin’s federal agent Matt Graver. This is a man whose primary concern is fulfilling a mission, even if it takes many gunshots and amoral decisions to see it through. Brolin does not try and make Graver somebody to sympathise with or root for as he makes a number of questionable decisions, but that’s part of what makes him interesting. Many of his scenes, in which he converses with government officials played by Matthew Modine and Catherine Keener, are compelling even as they primarily consist of sitting around in rooms. Sollima directs these scenes with the same intensity that he does any of the action scenes and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan presents exposition in a way that doesn’t feel clunky.

It’s often seen as sequel desperation when a youthful protagonist is thrown into the mix, but Day of the Soldado makes it work. Isabela Moner creates the rare sympathetic character as the kidnapped daughter of a drug lord, unfortunately thrown into a mess of a situation. A good amount of her screentime is spent with Benicio del Toro’s hitman Alejandro and the two actors work well off each other. The film is smart to not create the standard friendly bond between them, understanding Alejandro has his own layered motivations for his actions. Where Day of the Soldado falls a little short is a subplot involving an aspiring teenage drug lord. Elijah Rodriguez is fine in the role, but the character is never fleshed out into a truly compelling character and his scenes are when the film most drags.

Stefano Sollima directs the action with the necessary amount of intensity. The gunfire is used not for adrenaline purposes, but rather to create fright and terror. The sound team deserves particular credit for making the gunshots and noisy helicopters flying overhead even more intense. While Roger Deakins did not return to lens the film with his signature look, Dariusz Wolski does a great job of framing the action as well as the more dialogue driven scenes. Wolski especially knows how to use space well, whether in a small hidden house, the military buildings or the wide open deserts of Mexico. Like Deakins, Wolski has a particular talent for shooting nighttime scenes.

Making a sequel to Sicario was a surprising decision, but Day of the Soldado compliments its predecessor quite well. It continues to tackle the tough issues in regards to how the American government responds to border control and how it’s not quite a squeaky clean process. This does appear to be the middle chapter of a planned trilogy, but Sollima and Sheridan still manage to make this work as its own self-contained story with various characters going through their own arcs. This is not a film for the faint of heart and there is a “ripped from the headlines” approach to its storytelling, but the filmmakers craft a compelling narrative with which to explore this subject matter.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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