Sicario (2015) was the first film I’d seen directed by Denis Villeneuve that Taylor Sheridan had written. I loved it, and upon rewatching it in preparation for the Sheridan-penned sequel (although a change to Stefano Sollima in direction), I found myself feeling like I was watching it for the first time. I went into Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018) really hoping to be as blown away as I was with first one, with expectations that a sequel probably wouldn’t do that. While there are some intriguing ideas and great performances by Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, elements of the story don’t seem clear, and left me feeling slightly confused by the film’s conclusion.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado has some interesting ideas, dark characters, and some potentially confusing plot elements
The Mexican cartels have begun smuggling terrorists over the border, and after an attack on American soil, the U.S. government feels compelled to act. Matt Graver (Brolin) is enlisted to turn the cartels against each other, and he seeks the help of Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) to accomplish this. Matt requests that he be allowed to get “dirty” with this task, and is given the green light to do whatever it takes.
Del Toro is such an awesome presence as the character of Alejandro. He is an enigma who manages to instill fear and trust in the people he is around. Everyone, including Matt, seems to feel safer with Alejandro around – yet there is clearly an element of uncertainty about Alejandro’s intentions, which keeps everyone tense. While Emily Blunt was a strong character in Sicario, Del Toro’s is definitely the most interesting one from the film. This movie expands on his character more – but his interactions with Isabel (Isabela Moner) are also where the movie loses me.
As mentioned in the synopsis, Matt is ordered to turn the Cartels against each other. Brolin gives a strong performance in a dialogue-heavy scene where a room of military officials and the Secretary of Defense, James Riley (Matthew Modine), debate which would be the best methods to achieve this objective. Ultimately, it is decided that targeting a family member of one of the cartel’s leaders will incite the most turmoil. Isabel becomes that target, but how things play out generates more confusion. It’s not possible for me to list what specifically confused me without spoiling moments in the film. I’m not sure if the film does a poor job of explaining the details, or if I’m just not connecting the dots that Sheridan placed within the film’s plot. Either way, it left me feeling more confused than satisfied by end of the film.
Despite the issues I had with elements of the plot, Sicario: Day of the Soldado did a good job of continuing the development of Matt and Alejandro. Their relationship is revealed to be more entwined than initially revealed in the first film. Del Toro and Brolin are both powerhouses in this film, and it is generally enjoyable – though the gorgeous cinematography and frequent wide shots found in the first film are noticeably absent. Still, Sicario: Day of the Soldado earns a Decent Watch rating.