Review: Sicario: Day of the Soldado

The war against the Mexican drug cartels heats up in Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Following a suicide bombing in Texas, where the terrorists sneaked in through the Mexican border, CIA Special Activities Division agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) is assigned by Secretary of Defense James Riley (Matthew Modine) to help instigate a war between the Mexican cartels, as retribution for assisting the terrorists cross the border. To accomplish this, Graver recruits his Colombian sicario contact Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) to head into Mexico and kidnap Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner), the teenage daughter of one of the cartel leaders. However, things go wrong and Alejandro and Isabela are left stranded in Mexico, while Graver is ordered by his superior Cynthia Foards (Catherine Keener) to terminate the mission.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado is the follow-up to the original 2015 film directed by Denis Villeneuve. However, neither Villeneuve or star Emily Blunt return for this sequel, which is directed by Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima, with Taylor Sheridan returning to write the screenplay. The entire focus this time around is on the titular sicario Alejandro Gillick and his CIA handler Matt Graver. While the main plot focuses on the plan to try and start a war between the cartels, the film also has a subplot involving a young man named Miguel Hernandez (Elijah Rodriguez), who joins a gang that assists undocumented immigrants cross the border. These stories eventual converge in the third act, as Alejandro and Isabela attempt to cross the border back into America.

Even though Sicario: Day of the Soldado retains the same screenwriter, the direction of Denis Villeneuve is greatly missed, with Stefano Sollima, who only has two previous feature film credits, being a quite subpar replacement. Also, I believed that much of the intrigue of Sicario came from how it was told from the outsider’s point of view of Emily Blunt’s FBI agent and her presence is also greatly missed in this follow-up, even though the film does add a lot more character development for both Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro Gillick and Josh Brolin’s Matt Graver.

However, I also have to say that Sicario: Day of the Soldado is also a victim of some major bad timing. This film is being released mere weeks after real life news reports of Mexican immigrant children being caged up in Texas and film that makes illegal immigration a major plot point doesn’t really leave the best taste in my mouth. Whether it is intentional or not, Sicario: Day of the Soldado in some ways supports U.S. President Donald Trump’s arguments that Mexico is a haven for terrorists, who then illegally cross the border into the United States, which is something that actually happens in the opening scene of Sicario: Day of the Soldado. I really have to say that I prefer the films that I see to be an escape from the world we live in, instead of playing up to fears of the other.

Political issues aside, I do have to say that Sicario: Day of Soldado is still a fine enough film; it just left less an impression on me than the original did.