It’s not that Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a lot of movie without exposition but that the film really lacks the presence of Emily Blunt.
Blunt’s character, as you may recall, was forced to sign paperwork at the end of the first film. It makes perfect sense as to why her character, Kate Mercer, isn’t returning but it hurts the film. The only two women with any kind of prominence in Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay are CIA Deputy Director Cynthia Foard (Catherine Keener) and Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner). The film feels so heavy on testosterone that it’s not even funny. CIA operative Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and attorney-turned assassin Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) can shoot at people they want but there’s no grounded center.
The sequel feels like it’s a very different movie from the previous film. It certainly doesn’t help that director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins didn’t return. The lack of their presence surely shows in the sequel in which Stefano Sollima has taken over the director’s chair.
This film feels very much as if it’s a film that’s made for the Trump Administration era. We get a meeting between Graver and Defense Secretary James Riley (Matthew Modine) where SecDef defines terrorism and adds that the president is adding drug cartels to the list.
“Killing kings doesn’t start wars,” Graver tells Riley. “It ends them.”
This meeting comes after a major bombing in Kansas City leaves some 15 people dead, including two children. The administration suspects the cartels of trafficking terrorists so they want to send a tough message. The question is, is this the right message to send?
In response to Riley, Graver suggests that they don’t go after the head of the cartel but rather the prince. Or in this case, a princess in the form of Carlos Reyes’ daughter, Isabela Reyes. In essence, the military decides to start a war between two rivaling cartels. Once Alejandro is brought on board, the whole operation goes from bad to worse. Graver and Alejandro don’t see eye to eye on everything. There’s no way that it won’t end up well.
It’s not just that they kill a member of one cartel but to do so with the hope that their members suspect the rival cartel. Making matters worse, they kidnap Isabela and then take her somewhere that they raid hours later. I’m not a fan of the whole idea of kidnapping a teenager to send a message AND then take her to a house that you’ll just raid anyway. Graver comes off as the big hero because of this. It gets worse when the president decides to shut the mission down after Graver’s crew takes out the Mexican police.
Moner is a talented actress. The scenes that she shares with Del Toro shows the chemistry between the two. There’s also a sense of Alejandro seeing something in Isabela that reminds him of his late daughter. I could totally see the two of them working together again.
Having Hildur Guđnadóttir pen the film’s score is a great way of paying tribute to the fallen composer, Jóhann Johannsson. Guđnadóttir was a protégé of the late Johannsson, who composed the score for the first film. It’s one way of keeping the work in the family so to speak.
With shootout after shootout, the second Sicario film feels like it’s not really going in any particular direction. It feels less like a sequel and more like a stand-alone film that you never signed up for. You’d be hard-pressed to see a scene without people being killed or someone talking about people getting killed. This goes back to the lack of Emily Blunt. Her character, for better or worse, was the heart and soul of the first film.
DIRECTOR: Stefano Sollima
SCREENWRITER: Taylor Sheridan
CAST: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donavan, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Catherine Keener
Sony Pictures will release Sicario: Day of the Soldado in theaters on June 29, 2018.