Sicario: Day of the Soldado is the sequel to the excellent film Sicario, directed by Denis Villeneuve. This one’s directed by Stefano Sollima, and it’s not half as good as the first. Sicario was an interesting, arty film about cartels, the drug war, and the role of the US government in it all, with Emily Blunt in the lead. The sequel is again written by Taylor Sheridan, who is an excellent writer, and is set three years after the first. The two morally ambiguous male leads from the first return: CIA Special Division Activities Officer Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), who seems to be playing both sides. Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room, Blue Ruin) was originally considered to direct, but his film Hold the Dark and the hopefully good third season of True Detective took precedence.
It’s more of the same in some ways, covering the drug war along the US-Mexico border, but there’s a whole weird plot about drug cartels taking terrorists across the US border that seems to play into one of Trump’s fake narratives. It’s full of problematic stereotype of both Mexicans and Muslims, and ends up feeling quite right-wing even though I doubt that was the intention. I actually ended up seeing it twice in the cinema just because I was so bewildered by it—and I liked it even less the second time around, thanks to the off-putting xenophobia. It’s not a black-and-white story, and it’s a bleak narrative, and but given the current political climate it might be misread.
It’s a real shift from the first film, despite having the same author—maybe it was a rush job because of the first film’s success, although the sequel was announced even before Sicario was released, because it had been made cheaply enough to make that a profitable possibility.
Brolin and Del Toro are both great, but they’re actors who are always good, and these roles are tailor-made for them. The pacing is also a bit off, and Sicario: Day of the Soldado wasn’t shot by Roger Deakins this time, as he was busy on other projects, so it doesn’t look quite as good.
If you haven’t seen Sicario, see that first. While I think the sequel is still trying to make a big statement about the CIA and DEA and how they have helped to build the drug cartels, this is definitely the lesser follow-up, although it’s OK enough for a watch.
There are several making-of featurettes included in the package.