Dan's Review: harsh realities come to life in "Sicario: Day of the Soldado"
Jun 29, 2018 01:02AM ● Published by Dan Metcalf
Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro in Sicario: Day of the Soldado - © 2018 Sony Pictures.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado (Sony Pictures)
Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, and language.
Starring Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Catherine Keener, Matthew Modine, Shea Whigham, Elijah Rodriguez, Howard Ferguson Jr., David Castaneda, Jacqueline Torres, Raoul Max Trujillo, Bruno Bichir, Jake Picking.
Written by Taylor Sheridan.
Directed by Stefano Sollima.
When movies imitate real life, it can be disturbing, if not a little uncomfortable. For instance, sitting through a film about a mass shooting or terrorist attack might be a little too real for masses inundated with images they saw on news feeds or shows only hours or days before. Some call it bad timing, but at this point, there are enough disturbing images available and in rapid succession to consider that there may never be a time that is “soon enough” or “too soon” for the release of such films. Whether it’s timing or bad luck or coincidence, Sicario: Day of the Soldado launches within days of several significant news events, including a mounting crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and the upholding of a travel ban intended to keep terrorists from entering the country. The movie deals with both elements (human trafficking and terrorism) in a very graphic way.
The film is a sequel to Sicario (2015), directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Taylor Sheridan. Italian director Stefano Sollima takes over for Villeneuve as Sheridan returns with another fantastic script. Missing from the leading cast is Emily Blunt, but Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin reprise their roles as a Mexican hitman and a shady CIA operative.
When terrorists attack in America’s heartland, Special Agent Matt Graver (Brolin) is dispatched to track their path, which leads him to the Mexican border, where drug/human trafficking cartels rule. Graver employs Alejandro Gillick (del Toro), a “sicario” (hit man) to help stir up a war between competing cartels, in order to divide and conquer them. Their plan is to kidnap the daughter of a powerful cartel leader and blame it on a competing cartel. The kidnapping goes as planned, and Isabel (Isabel Moner) is taken to a Texas border town and “rescued” by homeland security agents in a ruse that government officials hope will trigger a cartel war. Their plan is to return the girl unharmed to her father. The plan backfires when the strike team is attacked by Mexican federal police. Gillick escapes with Isabel, hoping to cross the border with the girl on his own. Meanwhile, Graver’s bosses (Catherine Keener and Matthew Modine) pull the plug on the operation and order him to cut losses, which includes chalking up Gillick and Isabel as collateral damage. Gillick and the girl must deal with human trafficking “coyotes” who work for her dad’s rival cartel. Their journey is ridden with all sorts of perils from the cartels and Graver, who has been ordered to “wipe the slate” clean of any U.S. involvement.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a well-written, tense thriller, with a chilling performance from del Toro and solid characterization from Brolin. Moner is a fresh face with a lot of talent, screen presence and potential for bigger roles going forward.
The movie is hard to watch in terms of its all-too-real imagery of terrorism and seemingly hopeless lack of any solutions for solving the border crisis. Despite the depressing realities of art imitating life, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is good enough to keep your interest up until the final scenes. It may not be as good as its predecessor, but it’s a very worthy sequel that delves deeper into controversial issues without feeling like a sequel. Taylor Sheridan’s screenwriting talents are well spent tackling the varied elements of evil as they relate to the cartels and the social cost of drugs and human trafficking at the border.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado Trailer