Basically: An action crime thriller using the US border debate as material for a part two.
Back in 2015, Sicario released to become a surprise cult hit. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Taylor Sheridan, the film did very well at the box office, critically, and in award nominations. That must’ve been enough that the powers-that-be decided to franchise it with a focus on the characters portrayed by Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado is about Brolin’s Matt Graver who is tasked with dealing with Muslim terrorists coming across the US/Mexico border. He decides the best plan is to destabilize cartels by causing a war between them and for that he needs help from his sicario friend, Alejandro. From there it becomes a messy mission of kidnappings and violence tied to illegal immigration and gangland brutality. While the first film gave us a lot to chew on in the issues surrounding the border, the war on drugs, and the government spin, this film tries to do the same with the war on terror, and how it interacts with the immigration debate. But Day of the Soldado fails because of sequelitis—specifically making Sicario into a franchise.
Photo: © 2018 CTMG, Inc/Sony Pictures
Sicario 2 works hard to keep the tone and look of the earlier film with muted and desaturated colors. The camerawork goes for that handheld feel of being embedded with a regiment of soldiers or a police taskforce. Which makes the film a bit heavy handed on the onscreen violence—it’s more gratuitous than the first film and at times seems to only be there to look cool. Maybe because of how high video game production values are, there are scenes that remind you of gameplay like Call of Duty Black Ops. Thus the violence, at times, seems not as well earned without a clear reason for why the gunplay is happening. The details are not as well conveyed either. I can’t tell if that’s a script problem or a director problem since this is the only Sheridan film to have a sequel so far.
The real big mistake in the movie happens in the last act, around the last fifteen or so minutes, when something fairly unrealistic takes place and completely takes you out the story. It’s a plot turn that destroys the tone and, in a way, the themes and message of the film too. There really isn’t much to say about the acting other than it’s all really good. To tell the truth, it’s the acting that engages you throughout, even as the film goes into that weird B-plot that, for the most part, is there to turn it all into a franchise—which is maddening. All the goodwill of the first film is almost wasted by the ending.
In the End: Not a complete waste but a questionable start to a franchise that doesn’t need to be one.