Action Crime

Review: Intense Action and Equally Intense Performances Make ‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado’ a Worthy Sequel

June 28, 2018Ben MK

In Sicario: Day of the Soldado, writer Taylor Sheridan and director Stefano Sollima touch on issues like the migrant crisis and domestic terrorism, but the film is ultimately distilled to the battle of wills between two men — one bound by duty, the other bound by honor.

In this sequel to Denis Villeneuve's 2015 sleeper hit, we follow two of the original movie's characters, square-jawed but "dirty" DEA agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and ruthless assassin Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), who find themselves working together again after a series of suicide bombings target American citizens near the US-Mexico border, prompting the President of the United States (presumably not Donald Trump) to classify the Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations, based on the assumption that they are smuggling terrorists.

With the newfound power to strike at the cartels afforded to him by the revised government legislation, Secretary of Defense James Riley (Matthew Modine) turns to Matt for his special set of skills. An early scene that shows Brolin's character stationed in Africa and trying to wring information from a suspected terrorist sympathizer by threatening to call in an air strike on the man's home shows that Matt is not someone to be trifled with. And, in turn, Matt turns to the only other man he knows even more hard-nosed than him: Alejandro.

Together, and under the watchful eye of mission supervisor Cynthia Foards (Catherine Keener), they set out to wage war against the cartels by pitting their enemies against each other, a strategy that involves the kidnapping of one underworld boss' daughter, a spoiled teen named Isabel Reyes (Transformers: The Last Knight's Isabela Moner). But when the whole unsanctioned operation goes sideways after several Mexican police officers end up riddled with bullets, Matt finds himself with new orders — to clean up all loose ends, including Alejandro and Isabel.

Along the way, the characters cross paths with a troubled Texas teen named Miguel (Elijah Rodriguez), who's been recruited by his older cousin to help the cartels traffic migrants across the border. Suffice to say, Miguel's subplot is one of Day of the Soldado's master strokes, as the film takes its sweet time paying off his storyline, only leaving viewers to discover at the end just how critical a role Miguel plays to the overall arc of the movie.

Otherwise, this unlikely followup is a fairly straightforward action-thriller bolstered by some intense action and some equally intense performances, that at the same time also manages to feel somewhat disconnected from its predecessor. That said, despite the rote nature of its plot and the weak connective tissue linking it to the first film, there are still enough twists and turns to make Day of the Soldado worthy of a night out at the movies.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado releases June 29th, 2018 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong violence, bloody images, and language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 2 min.

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