Sicario: Day of the Soldado is directed by Stefano Sollima and stars Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Ruflo, and Catherine Keener.
Day of the Soldado is the follow-up to the intensely action-packed 2015 crime drama Sicario, which once again sees the US government stoking the volatile flame that is the syndicate of Mexican drug cartels. Brolin and Del Toro’s returning characters continue to walk the line of their questionable moral choices, and through a series of complications and circumstances, even walk the line(s) between good men, decent men, evil men, and just another sicario.
As something of a Denis Villeneuve fanboy who absolutely loved the first film, I have to say that I was genuinely excited to see what the sequel had in store. I was a little apprehensive that Villeneuve himself wouldn’t helm the director’s chair this time around, but Villeneuve apparently saw the film before its release and gave it his own seal of approval. So it seemed like we were in good hands.
But unfortunately, what director Sollima ultimately brings to the table is a messy sequel that looks and sounds just like its big brother, but misses a number of other shot where it really counts. This film suffers from what is arguably one of the worst cinematic identity crises I’ve ever seen, with no clear idea what exactly it wants to be.
The film, for the most part, is competently acted enough. There really aren’t any standouts here, with the exception of Brolin and Del Toro, who are undoubtedly the most talented actors in the entire cast. Sollima’s direction helps the film to relive Sicario’s trademark intensity and grit, with many nail-biting and chilling scenes that generated some of the most genuine theater reactions I’ve seen from an audience in a long time. In addition, the first act and a half or so largely delivers on what you might be expecting from a Sicario sequel. I even found myself enjoying a number of scenes leading up to what is an incredibly odd shift at the summit of the film’s finale.
As in, this film completely switches directions about 2/3rd of the way through, and sticks a strange landing as something entirely different than what the buildup suggested. Not in the sense of a plot twist, or the payoff to narrative/character development. This film just becomes something entirely different for the back nine, and ends with a set-up for what may very well be an even more confused sequel, capping a trilogy with no real sense of development or direction. It really has to be seen to be believed, and may not even be believed to the watchful eye.
Day of the Soldado is by no means the worst film I’ve seen this year, and is even a competent action thriller for most of its 2-hour runtime. It’s just so incredibly confused in such a bizarre way that its flaws are really the only thing I’m going to actually remember about this film. Had more love and support been shown to the first film by contemporary filmgoing audiences, there’s a chance that more love and effort could’ve been put into the sequel. And that’s quite the shame, because the first one is nothing short of a masterful thriller. How do I know that practically no one saw the first film? Upon my exit of the theater, my girlfriend and I overheard a group of dissatisfied moviegoers go “Damn that was kinda whack man, I hope they make a part two.”
Sicario: Day of the Soldado isn’t the worst. It just doesn’t know what it is, plain and simple. And as someone who loved the first film, that’s nothing short of dissappointing. I’m not going to remember much of this film come the end of the summer movie season, and quite truthfully neither will you. Sicario: Day of the Soldado gets a C-.