Main cast: Benicio del Toro (Alejandro Gillick), Josh Brolin (Matt Graver), Isabela Moner (Isabela Reyes), Jeffrey Donovan (Steve Forsing), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Gallo), Catherine Keener (Cynthia Foards), Matthew Modine (Secretary of Defense James Riley), Shea Whigham (Andy Wheeldon), Elijah Rodriguez (Miguel Hernandez), Howard Ferguson Jr (Troy), and David Castaneda (Hector)
Director: Stefano Sollima
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is, of course, a sequel to Sicario. Interestingly, this one barely has any resemblance to the previous movie. Perhaps this is by design all along? Being that both movies reflect some not-so-pristine dealings with drug cartels in Mexico, perhaps it makes sense that each movie reflects a bit of the US government of its time. In the previous movie, Barrack Obama was in charge, and he was far less showy and more subtle in showing American muscle, while for this movie, we have Donald Trump brashly and loudly thumping his fists on the podium about building you-know-what to keep out unwanted guests from down south. Hence, the previous movie is a political thriller with solid action and chase scenes. This one, however, is an action movie masquerading as a thriller. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but it can be difficult at times to reconcile both movies.
In this one, a bombing in a mall, probably by ISIS terrorists, leads the Secretary of Defense and Cynthia Foards into roping in maverick, ruthless covert ops fellow Matt Graver to track down and eliminate the threat without publicly dirtying the hands of the US government. The trail leads to a drug cartel boss Carlos Reyes, who apparently allows the terrorists to make their way to the US via Mexico, and Matt quickly decides that instigating a war between Reyes and various drug cartels will do the trick. This includes roping back his top assassin Alejandro Gillick into the gig again, and the plan is to kidnap Reyes’s teenage daughter Isabella and drop her in the middle of enemy territory in order to get the war going. Of course, things never go as planned.
The first half easily lulls people into believing that this is another Sicario, but just you wait: once the second half kicks in, this movie sees Alejandro generally being Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris all in one, playing the tragic lone cowboy archetype. Now, I like Benicio del Toro’s portrayal of Alejandro, but I have to wonder he can go from being willing to use a teenage girl as a pawn to caring a bit too much about her safety. This is a predictable turn of event, and as a result, Alejandro becomes even more of a stereotype here. That’s a shame, as I’m hoping that he’d be a bit less of a formulaic hitman with a heart of gold here. If anything, it is Matt who becomes what Alejandro should have been. Here, his feelings towards Alejandro can be shockingly impersonal – he tells Rachel that he spent a long time making Alejandro into what he is – and ultimately, despite his maverick rule-breaker façade, he is loyal to the United States far more than his comrades. Still, both characters are far less interesting here compared to the previous movie.
As for the plot, well, the plot holes are far more obvious here, but still, after adjusting my expectations once I realize what I’m getting into, it’s still pretty easy to enjoy Sicario: Day of the Soldado. I have to warn folks reading this, though: there is no standard Hollywood-style resolution here. I like this, actually – this apparent fallibility of Alejandro nicely balances the increasingly ridiculous superhero qualities the movie is slowly giving him – but it also makes this movie appear to be what it is claimed to be: the second movie in a planned trilogy.
This movie is alright, really, so long as people know not to expect a spiritual successor to Sicario.