In 2015, Sicario wove together seemingly disparate threads to tell a story that’s tragic on personal and geopolitical levels, delving into the ultraviolent world of the Mexican drug cartels. In 2018, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro reprise their roles for further exploration of a world far more violent than most Americans can relate to in a meaningful way. Sicario: Day of the Soldado manages to replicate some, but not all of the first film’s virtues. Whether it’s fair or not, it’s easy to judge this sequel (and all sequels, really) against the original. As with so many sequels, this one fails to stand tall enough to escape its predecessor’s shadow. Day of the Soldado’s greatest shortcomings have less to do with what this movie is, and much more to do with what it could have been.
Brolin returns as not-afraid-to-get-his-hands-dirty government operative Matt Graver, and Del Toro is back as Alejandro, the hitman with a heart of gold (sort of). These two share fantastic chemistry, with Brolin’s exuberant charisma giving an effective counterpoint to Del Toro’s performance, simultaneously expressive and stoic. Brolin’s ability to handle characters good, bad, and somewhere in-between is remarkable. In this case, he’s most definitely somewhere in-between. Indeed, Graver’s moral ambiguity isn’t a problem, per se, but he typifies the gray area which this story and all its characters occupy. This is the most problematic departure from the original film. In the original, Emily Blunt’s character is the touchstone for audiences to maintain a moral compass, a means of juxtaposing everyday life with a world of relentless, narco-fueled violence. She’s the canary in the coal mine who’s there to show that all is far from okay. Unfortunately, Day of the Soldado offers the audience no moral compass. Nobody can be a good guy if literally every character does at least one awful thing.
This may well have been a conscious choice. While Day of the Soldado got a new director, Stefano Sollima, writer Taylor Sheridan wrote the screenplay for both films. Still, whether a choice or not, the omission misses an opportunity to connect more deeply with audiences. The first film made a much more obvious statement about justice or the lack thereof, whereas the sequel, lacking a moral touchstone, seems resigned to, even comfortable with, a world where terrible people do horrible things with impunity. It’s this shift, this subtle shift into normalizing this world that reduces Day of the Soldado from a movie with something meaningful to say about the world, to explosion porn.
Visually, this iteration doesn’t live up to the bar set by its predecessor, but in fairness, that bar was very high (the first film earning an Academy Award nomination for cinematography). This is not to say that Day of the Soldado is deficient in this regard, just another area where the original shadow looms long over the franchise. To the extent that this film suffers, it’s largely because of expectations set by the original. There’s nothing wrong with a movie that revels in being big, dumb, explodey fun. That’s how I’d describe some of my favorite movies. It’s when you go from violence for a reason, violence as a means of making a statement, to violence as spectacle for its own sake that something gets lost.
Sicario: Day Of The Soldado
|Sicario: Day Of The Soldado|
|RELEASE DATE:||June 29 2018|
|AUTHOR:||Jason M. Brown|