Sicario: Day of the Soldado Movie Review
You don’t mess with Benicio del Toro. You just don’t do it. A bullet isn’t going to stop him—we all know that. Hell, looking worse than an extra from The Walking Dead isn’t going to stop him. And a few Mexican drug cartels sure as hell aren’t either.
Del Toro is back in Sicario: Day of the Soldado, assuming the lead protagonist role after Emily Blunt was deemed unnecessary for the sequel. Josh Brolin returns as well, and the two are ready to play dirty after the U.S. government suspects that Mexican drug cartels are smuggling Islamic terrorists across the border, because, you know, terrorists and immigration are popular topics right now.
In response, Brolin and del Toro plot to start a war among the cartels by kidnapping the feisty daughter (Isabela Moner) of one of the cartel leaders.
From there, the plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense—or at least it goes in directions that are less intelligent or interesting than the original—which is where Sicario: Day of the Soldado struggles.
The movie was already at a disadvantage with the loss of director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049), who presumably didn’t see the need for a sequel, and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, who composed the original’s mesmerizing and unique score. Thankfully, writer Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water, Wind River) returns to pen the sequel.
Unfortunately, it’s his most uneven work to date.
There’s a lot to like in Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Director Stefano Sollima presents a visually pretty film that is stylistically consistent with its predecessor. The movie seems to rehash much of the same atmospheric score from the original, which alone is able to maintain a consistent level of intensity. Sheridan propels the plot forward at a quick pace, at least for a while, and Sollima delivers a few solid action sequences.
And yet, in the end, this Sicario sequel feels like a lesser, shallower remix of its predecessor. Most of the recognizable components are there, but it lacks the same drive and a clear purpose for existing. While I felt Blunt’s character in the original was nothing more than a vessel to observe and react to the horrible things happening around her, her absence—or someone like her—means we’re left with awful people doing awful things. That’s all fine and good, except the story doesn’t entirely play to their strengths, instead trying to subvert the characters into men who, deep down, have some kind of compassion. It just doesn’t work.
The whole shift to focus on immigration (the first movie was focused on drugs) feels forced, and the plot developments in the second half feed off the film’s shortcomings in unsatisfying ways. The third act, while not terrible, is a major letdown as it goes in odd directions.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is decent in many ways, but its weak story combined with the loss of Villeneuve’s clarity of vision—the sequel never really establishes why it exists—means it fails to live up to the original in practically every way.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.