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Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado Review

The Sicario sequel (Day of the Soldado, or just Soldado depending on where you live) dials back on the original's complex, dark morality play and opts for a more traditional, if brutal action thriller. It opens strong and boasts some gorgeous visuals, but it's missing the human element that was at the core of the first movie. Part of that is undoubtedly to Emily Blunt's character being MIA - the idealistic, out-of-her-league FBI agent's perspective was instrumental in Sicario beating you down. This time around, it's up to returning cast members Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro to carry the film - their characters are much more at ease with the brutal, morally questionable tactics the CIA and the US government employs in its fight with the drug cartels. In a sequel that's more action oriented, that shift in character focus works. The problem is that you don't really learn much more about Brolin's Graver and Del Toro's Alejandro than what was revealed in the first movie. The lack of character development makes it difficult to really root for these guys, which wasn't exactly easy to begin with considering how brutal they are. After a fearsome introduction of Brolin's Graver, Soldado tries to flesh him and Del Toro's Alejandro out a bit by showing that there are some lines even they don't cross - but the whole thing is very half-baked. The pair are part of a task force that kidnaps the daughter of a drug cartel boss and blames it on a rival cartel to get them to fight one another. When the mission goes south, Graver is tasked by his superiors to take out both Alejandro and the girl, which he is none too pleased about. On his end, Alejandro refuses to kill the girl, opting instead to try and get her to safety. On paper, this sounds solid. Start the movie off with these brutal, amoral guys that by the end show a more compassionate side. The thing is, while Graver's frustration is at least understandable, The choices Alejandro makes simply ring hallow as compared to the character we met one film ago. We saw in the original Sicario that he was not at all above killing the children of of drug cartel bosses, in front of their very eyes no less. Had Soldado spent more time on the relationship between Alejandro and Isabela (Isabela Moner), any shift he makes could have worked - but the two barely interact in any meaningful way. The two ways in which the movie absolutely delivers is the action and the visuals. Quick and brutal gunfights and executions, paired with gorgeous shots that convey a grand and oppressive sense of scale - much like in the first movie. Hildur Guðnadóttir's score also does a good job of capturing the spirit of Jóhann Jóhannsson's work on the original. Soldado tackles the immigration crisis at the US-Mexico border head on and refuses to hold anyone's hand with its brutal and unflinching portrayal of the situations - it's up the viewer to decide if the topicality of the movie gives it an extra edge, or just comes across as being in poor taste. One thing's for sure, it's bound to turn some heads. For an action thriller, this is pretty decent. As a sequel to Sicario, it's underwhelming. Director Stefano Sollima was up to the task - it seems that this time, it was writer Taylor Sheridan that dropped the ball by not digging deeper into the main characters. The ending leaves the door open for another sequel, which wouldn't be the worst idea - this series has a solid foundation. All it needs is a bit more humanity - maybe bring back Emily Blunt in Sicario 3?
Rating
6.5
Pros
  • Great cinematography
  • Solid action
  • Brolin and Del Toro are good leads
Cons
  • Light on character development and humanity
  • Doesn't match the high bar set by the original

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