‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado’ is the sequel to a film that blew past my expectations. Crime-dramas, and action-thrillers are my favorite genres. So, when the first film came out back in 2015 and delivered top-notch performances, direction, scoring, and writing, I didn’t necessarily want a sequel. Then one was announced with Denis Villeneuve not returning. Neither was Emily Blunt or cinematographer Roger Deakins. The late Johann Johannsson who delivered a world-class score in the first film that was Oscar nominated, also was not slated to return for this sequel before his unfortunate passing.
But Taylor Sheridan was back writing the script. Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro were in as well, and with that so was I in hoping this would be a great next chapter in the saga. There were some missing pieces from the original ‘Sicario’ recipe, but with ‘Day of the Soldado’ I do think that some new appealing ingredients are added to result in a tension filled narrative. I thought this was a great film. I don’t think it’s better than the first. But I can say it is a great sequel. Because it does what all great sequels are supposed to. It advances the characters. It maintains the same tone of foreboding intensity with its many build-up’s, and it does so without feeling derivative.
It doesn’t simple rely on tropes that worked in the first story. The plot takes things to new levels which opens the door to a wide-range of different dynamics than what we saw in the first story. We get to see our two main characters in different lights at times. They are further along in life. They are both the same in many ways, but we know more about them and their relationship now and you can see time has worn on each of them.
We see different sides to their personalities that showed there was effort in trying to create growth in them from a writing aspect. Which was bolstered by great performances from both Del Toro, and Brolin once again. Their chemistry is simple, it comes off realistic, and much like the first story, with little dialogue between them you can still capture that sense of a much larger history there between them that was subtly thought-provoking.
I thought young Isabela Moner was fantastic in this role as a cartel bosses daughter. She felt very natural in the character. She knew her fathers line of work, she knew the consequences to his business dealings and I really enjoyed the level of awareness this script gave to the character. This allowed Moner to still be a kid but at the same time grasp the ramifications of many situations which let the emotion in her performance shine in many scenes. Emotional beats that I felt Moner genuinely delivered to made it much easier to connect with her, and her journey through this story.
The film has a slow building progression like the first. The main plot-line may not have been as riveting as it was with Emily Blunt’s character venturing into government black-ops waters. But I still think it was compelling enough to get pulled into. It wasn’t as deeply woven as the first, and it does follow some familiar genre tropes. But where it lacks weight as a focal plot it works perfectly to create a line-in-the-sand between Brolin and Del Toro’s characters. That I think over all the splashes of action, and doses of government agenda, was the focal point of this film overall.
The moments of action in the story were well-timed and they definitely hit with a strong intensity. The direction overall was very well done by Stefano Sollima. I don’t think this was as polished a film as the first, but it definitely felt like it was set in the same world from an artist aspect. The visual appeal as a whole was excellent, with similar camera techniques such as the methodical approach to the scene openings, the use of aerial angles, and slow panning shots.
The story poses some moral dilemmas which were intriguing to wrap my head around. It puts you in the position of the characters effectively to make you wonder what you would do in their position. While still being able to feel the complete weight of the dangers some decisions can result in which I found to be very engaging. It’s a little flashier in the action department, but it works for a tension filled story that keeps your attention locked in. For me it was the characters that kept the interest high from one scene to the next. If you enjoyed the first film I recommend checking this one out. It shows effort, it definitely has some well-crafted moments that will have you on edge and overall, I felt they were enough to make-up for some of the scripts shortcomings.