Sicario Day of the Soldado Review: Thoroughly watchable, even if not very novel
Apart from the novelty factor of Part 1, there isn’t much that sets the two films apart, leading us to wonder if there was need for a sequel, in the first place
Sicario: Day of the Soldado follows the tenor of the first film to the tee, almost. The only notable absence is that of Emily Blunt’s character. Written by Taylor Sheridan (who was responsible for the original as well) and directed by Stefano Sollima, Part 2 involves itself with problems not entirely dissimilar to its predecessor: upholding the national security ideals of the United States; the problems emanating from beyond the Texas border into Mexico; human trafficking being the current trade of choice for the Mexican cartels; and American intelligence undertaking any means necessary to spin the narrative in their country’s favour.
Sicario did well due to the pacing of its plot and the steady build-up of intrigue. The musical score played a significant role in the culmination of tense scenes. The sequel attempts to go the exact same way in all of the categories above, but since we’ve been exposed to it before, it fails to be equally impressive the second time around. Unlike Part 1, though, there are no moral conscience keepers in this one. What is ethical or unethical does not boil down to an individual’s makeup, but what is laid down to you by your Government and your trade.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado, just like its predecessor, is a thoroughly watchable film. That being said, it suffers from some of the same pitfalls as Part 1 the most important of which, is the perpetuation of a racial stereotype. Mexicans, for the most part, are either shown to be working for the drug cartels or attempting to enter America illegally. Even the cops are under the payroll of the mafia. Both films are seen predominantly from an American lens, which to a large extent, make them biased. Even though members of the CIA and top Government officials are seen to make ethically questionable choices at every conceivable turn to further the US’s interests, not enough perspective is provided from the other side of the fence.
Director: Stefano Sollima
Cast: Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener
A Kansas City supermarket is targeted by suicide bombers, leaving several dead and many injured. The Mexican drug cartels are suspected of transporting the terrorists through their regular network to carry out the attack. Earlier it was drugs, but now the cartels make their money by the illegal trafficking of human beings from across the border into Texas. CIA special operative Matt Graver is called in by the Department of Defence to provide his expertise to tackle the problem. He is given carte blanche to come up with a solution to hit the cartels hard, so as to disarm them completely. Graver recruits his old partner, Alejandro Gillick, for the task at hand and proposes to kidnap Isabela Reyes, the daughter of Carlos Reyes (one of Mexico’s biggest cartel chiefs). The CIA plans to pin the blame on a rival cartel. The belief is that the act will lead to large-scale internal war, and thus, reduce threats to the US. But things go awry after the staged kidnapping, and the CIA gets caught in the line of fire on foreign soil.
Apart from the novelty factor of Part 1, there isn’t much that sets the two films apart. Which begs the question, was there need for a sequel, in the first place? Going by Part 2’s closing scenes, there will, most definitely, be one more to come in the series. As for the acting, del Toro and Brolin come up trumps with their respective performances. The former’s brooding intensity, in even the most violent and harrowing scenes, is unnerving as ever. Just as in Sicario, his acting is the highpoint of this one too.
Perhaps the film is too one-dimensional in the story it wishes to tell – because, a strong case was made for the same plot points, even before. Neither film sugar-coats or glosses over the misdeeds of American intelligence, making just about everyone who works for national security an antihero. It is all about the means justifying the ends. And the ends change like the seasons, as per the Government’s whims and fancies. In spite of the flaws and generalisations, the boldness with which the film explores its subject matter is what makes the narrative intriguing.