Sicario: Day Of The Soldado (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Fans of 2015’s Sicario are going to be drawn back to the story, even with some significant changes to cast and director.
Gritty, unapologetic, and less a violent action movie and more a government procedural, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is almost counter-programming to more typical and common summer blockbuster offerings.
A bleak pall hangs over the proceedings, however the film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, with Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, and young actor Isabela Moner giving terrific performances.
Oh boy. Well. The first 15 minutes will likely determine just how much or how little you can stomach everything this screenplay by Taylor Sheridan is selling you.
For the 1,000th time, NO! Emily Blunt is not in this. In all seriousness, the movie is too concerned with its masculinity and bravado, then in finding any kind of counterbalance to treat the subjects it addresses fairly.
More than a few people are pointing out the film’s questionable handling of Persons of Color within the story and the screenplay. The term “brown panic” comes to mind.
Within the first 15 minutes of Sicario: Day of the Soldado, we are witness to a suicide bombing on the United States/Mexico border, a terrorist attack/suicide bombing in a Kansas City shopping mall, an ambush, and then an airstrike, called in by the C.I.A. on a potentially innocent Somali man’s family, as a means to get him to talk about things he may know nothing about. There’s also a waterboarding joke, and cheek-chewing, jaw furrowing, and testosterone-fueled posturing that becomes the tone for 107 more minutes or so.
Gone is director Denis Villenueve, lead actor Emily Blunt, Roger Deakins as cinematographer, and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson as composer, but all of this mayhem is born from the mind of acclaimed writer Taylor Sheridan (Hell Or High Water, Sicario), who clearly has designs on this Sicario property being, at a minimum, a cinematic trilogy.
Those departures find Sheridan forced to course correct and take his story in a markedly different direction. Honestly, it is not too difficult to view Sicario as a television or episodic property in the years to come, but I must say, I have to question whether or not he even understands what he is trying to say this time around.
After that mind-numbing opening barrage, we settle into a story where CIA operative Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) is tasked with disrupting the actions of Carlos Reyes, the ruler of a criminal cartel, and the father of 12-year-old Isabel (Isabela Moner). When Graver tells the Secretary of Defense (Matthew Modine) that he must be permitted “to get dirty,” he is told that is precisely why he has landed the job.
We are also briefed that the (unnamed) President is adding drug cartels to the list of terrorist organizations, setting forth the mission of abducting Isabel and then framing a competing cartel for the kidnapping.
Predicated on the terrorist attack in the United States, the military are made readily available and Graver needs one more piece - Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), whose family was killed by Reyes’ orders, and seems like the perfect agitator for Graver to complete his mission of disruption and destruction.
Make no mistake: this is a movie where we are reminded that the United States Military is the biggest, toughest, bully in the yard. This is also the movie where instead of having a sensible female voice to emulate Blunt’s effectiveness and counterbalancing from the first film, we get Catherine Keener, saddled with nothing more to do than complain, whine, and argue at every request Graver makes.
What a difference three years makes.
Sheridan also juggles a couple of side-stories, one of which involves a young Mexican-American teenage boy, Miguel (Elijah Rodriguez), lured into helping immigrants cross the border for considerable amounts of cash. His arrival offered the hopes that Miguel could be a character we learn from.
A recent Mexican film, Tigers Are Not Afraid, presents a look at escalating criminality and the invasive and destructive effects of the drug trade on Mexican youth, through the eyes of the children directly impacted. Here, Sheridan is either disinterested, or ill-equipped to provide much of a voice for either Miguel or Isabela in the film, and, in the case of Miguel’s story, turns him into a straight-up caricature by the end.
For some, this suspense/thriller, scattershot with violent action sequences will be perfect. And, as is part and parcel with our politics right now, pointing out what I might see as a troubling or alarming depiction of brown-skinned people in this movie, probably brands me as a “snowflake” and can be summarily dismissed as Mike, the Movie Reviewer, just looking for ways to get upset.
Right. Got it.
Brown-panic concerns aside, Sicario: Day of the Soldado finds Brolin, Del Toro, and Moner all delivering great performances and Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography is stunning.
No one asked for a Sicario sequel, and while I shudder to think of where a potential third film is going to take us, Day of the Soldado is going to play strong to a particular demographic who feel underrepresented at the multiplex.
And that’s alright. Heck, maybe I completely misinterpreted everything put before me. So, go enjoy Day of the Soldado and cheer for the “good” guys and root against the bad ones. And just remember, representation matters and not everyone is going to share in your elation at what this installment of Sicario puts before us on the screen.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, Isabela Moner, Elijah Rodriguez, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener, Matthew Modine, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Shea Whigham.
Director: Stefano Sollima
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Release Date: June 29, 2018
Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Releasing