Full disclosure: I saw Sicario: Day of the Soldado out of a sense of obligation to the Movie March. I saw the original Sicario in the theater back in 2015 and thought it was fine. But, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with them, these hard-edged crime movies aren’t generally my cup of chocolate milk. I only saw the first Sicario because of my commitment to Emily Blunt, who always provides a top-notch performance and has a distinct knack for choosing unique projects for herself, even if I’m not always a fan of the final product. Alas, after the first film became a moderate box office success, writer Taylor Sheridan, who won me over with his writing efforts for films such as Hell or High Water and 2017’s most overlooked film, Wind River, left Blunt’s character out of the script for this sequel, stating that her story was done.
If her story was done, so was my interest. The idea of a crime-filled, gun-fueled sausagefest as a follow-up to a successful initial installment that was fronted by a woman didn’t sound at all appealing to me and the marketing did nothing to dissuade me of that notion. But, I’ve grown to appreciate Sheridan, I have a website to maintain, and I saw the first film so I decided that I might as well give the film a shot, even as I trudged to the theater, this afternoon, thinking about how I was just ready to get it over with and get back to season two of “GLOW”.
Much to my surprise, it wasn’t all that bad. Unlike Emily Blunt, both Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro portray characters with lives full enough for two films, because they’re both back to reprise their roles from the original. After a terrorist attack in Kansas City is initiated by Mexican drug cartels through their trafficking of terrorists across the U.S.-Mexico border (if only there had been a really tall wall to stop them!), federal agent Matt Graver (Brolin) re-enlists the assistance of the sicario Alejandro (Del Toro) to track the problem to its source and bring it to an end. For Alejandro, there is an added bonus to the mission as succeeding will allow him vengeance on the man responsible for the death of Alejandro’s daughter. So, to lure this man out of hiding, Alejandro turns the tables by capturing the crime lord’s daughter Isabel (Isabel Reyes).
From a story perspective, the film is adequate. Nothing is done to turn the genre upside-down. The events play out in a fashion fairly typical of a film of this type, although I will concede that it doesn’t conclude as I expected it to. As I’ve made clear, I don’t exactly possess a natural inclination towards this genre of film, but if you do, the narrative should be right up your alley. Just the fact that it held my attention and never got me to the point of wishing for it to end is a credit to Sheridan, director Stefano Sollima, and the cast. The pacing is brisk and the film never feels as if it’s stalling for time.
The action is, again, adequate, but nothing particularly spectacular. It serves its purpose and comes across as authentic, adding to the stakes for all of the principles involved. The dialogue generally isn’t sharp or snazzy but it’s efficient and doesn’t drag the picture down. The film (and said dialogue) is at its most entertaining when Brolin is on-screen, as Graver has a biting sense of humor and, though it doesn’t surface often, when it does, it’s effective and succeeds at momentarily relieving the tension. Brolin has had the best year of his career and, with all of the high profile films he’s been in, lately, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s actually more than one of him.
Another aspect of the film that can’t be denied or ignored is how technically marvelous it is. The film looks amazing and sounds tremendous. Sollima has a great eye for shot composition and the cinematography is unquestionably stunning. Combined with the immaculate usage of surround sound and the realistic audio effects achieved by all involved, the film provides a surprisingly enjoyable experience for the senses, which greatly impacted my enjoyment of the film, as a whole.
It seems like I’ve liked all of the new releases, lately, and I expected Sicario: Day of the Soldado to break the streak, but that isn’t the case. It won’t be in my top ten for the year, but I’d be lying for the sake of pure stubbornness if I said I had a horrible time while watching this movie. Those predisposed to crime syndicate thrillers will find plenty to enjoy and home entertainment enthusiasts will want to pick this one up on 4K, assuming a) they enjoyed the film enough and b) it’s released in the format. Ultimately, while the film isn’t groundbreaking cinema – and still would have benefited from the presence of Emily Blunt – it provides another solid alternative to the more typical summer blockbuster for adults to enjoy. If I liked it – almost in spite of myself – you’ll likely love it.
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