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Sicario: Day of the Soldado - Film Review

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Sicario: Day of the Soldado - Movie Review

4 starsItalian television director Stefano Sollima couldn’t have taken on a more difficult project to mark his big screen directorial debut than he does with Sicario: Day of the Soldado, a film about the merciless war between Mexican drug cartels in the border area between the two countries. Yet, he makes it look so easy.

Though the film is the follow-up to 2015’s ultra-violent crime/thriller Sicario, it stands on its own as an intensely intricate exploration of the blurry lines that separate criminality and law enforcement, a theme often explored by the director whose past works include the Italian television series Suburra and then later, Gomorrah.

"a difficult watch at times. It is bloody and it is violent and earns every ounce of its hard R rating"


The story, once again written by Academy Award nominee and modern western devotee, Taylor Sheridan (Wind River, Hell or High Water) is a complex one populated by highly complicated and vividly illustrated characters that are neither hero nor villain. Yet Sollima never loses control of the subject matter. It is at all times intense, enthralling, bewildering, and even occasionally smothering with difficult decisions we’re not always prepared to reconcile. But most importantly, it is just a whole lot of fun.

That’s not to say it isn’t a difficult watch at times, however. It is bloody and it is violent and earns every ounce of its hard R rating. And we’re faced with the constant struggle of attempting to navigate the morally ambiguous waters of characters whose compasses don’t always point north. In spite of all the blood and violence, it never feels gratuitous. In fact, quite the opposite. Sheridan never glorifies the crime or the violence and the situations are never trivialized even though Sollima’s camera is never shy once the bullets (and grenades) begin to fly.

Benecio Del Toro and Josh Brolin re-team for Sicario: Day of the Soldado to continue the story of former lawyer Alejandro Gillick (Del Toro) whose family was murdered by a cartel kingpin, and CIA operative Matt Graver (Brolin) who has been recently tapped to head up a task force to fight the cartels along the U.S. Mexico border.

We learn in a particularly grisly opening scene that the cartels have recently begun trafficking Islamic-fundamentalist suicide bombers across the border. The plan? Kidnap a drug kingpin’s young daughter (Isabela Moner) to make it look like the work of a rival cartel. In other words, create chaos and anarchy in order to gain justice and control. Remember, the end always justifies the means to people like this and that’s what makes these characters so interesting. The consequences created for themselves lead them to question their own principles and to discover exactly where they fit into the larger political fabric. Since the first movie, both Gillick and Graver have come to rediscover their own humanity and this arc is never more evident than when Gillick is forced to contend with a set of hairy consequences when the kidnapping goes awry.

A secondary plot involving a young Mexican-American boy (Elijah Rodriguez) who lives along the border and is being recruited by the cartels, is particularly heartbreaking as the teenager struggles with either becoming a hitman, or somehow escaping the Sicario lifestyle.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado - Movie Review

There are a lot of moving parts in Sicario: Day of the Soldado as it straddles genres and takes on many of the hot-button issues we struggle with today, yet Sollima’s tone and pacing remain rock solid throughout. Del Toro and Brolin form the bones of the story, and while the emotional heart of Emily Blunt’s Kate Maer character is certainly missed from the original, the men provide a master class in heads-down, minimalist acting and bring to life a couple of living, breathing, but most importantly, deeply flawed characters. Sollima clearly recognizes this and keeps his camera pointed at the pair as they propel the story forward. Moner holds her own as she provides a heart wrenching father/daughter relationship with Del Toro’s Gillick.

Sicario Day of the Soldado may not carry the same gravitas and emotional heft as the original but it is certainly a must-see for lovers of action films. Especially action films that aren’t afraid to serve up a heaping helping of blood and violence accompanied by a healthy side dish of well-earned emotional payoff. And then there’s that closing scene that opens the door for the next installment. Bring it on!

Sicario: Day of the Soldado - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, bloody images, and language.
Runtime:
122 mins.
Director
: Stefano Sollima
Writer:
Taylor Sheridan
Cast:
Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner
Genre
: Crime | Action | Thriller
Tagline:
No rules This Time.
Memorable Movie Quote: "There's proof the cartels helped the terrorists get through the border."
Theatrical Distributor:
Columbia Pictures
Official Site: www.soldado.movie/#home
Release Date:
June 29, 2018
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: In Sicario: Day of the Soldado, the series begins a new chapter. In the drug war, there are no rules – and when the US government begins to suspect that cartels have started trafficking terrorists across the US border, federal agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) calls on the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), whose family was murdered by a cartel kingpin, to escalate the war in nefarious ways. Alejandro kidnaps the kingpin’s daughter to inflame the conflict – but when the girl is seen as collateral damage, her fate will come between the two men as they question everything they are fighting for.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado - Movie Review

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Sicario: Day of the Soldado - Movie Review

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