I had high expectations for this movie. I was very impressed with the first film, pleasantly surprised with the rawness of the story of the boundaries they were willing to cross to tell the truth, as close to it that a fiction piece can get. Sequels have a tendency to focus only on the hip elements and forget about the original core, and I’m glad to say that Sicario: Day of the Soldado did not fall into that troupe. That’s not to say the film was perfect, but it held true in the grand scheme of things.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado stands on its own, taking another adjacent angel in the situations with the US-Mexico border. This time around, the trafficking has escalated as it becomes apparent that foreign terrorists are using this route to come into the United States for destructive purposes. Agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) is given the green light to contain the situation, using any means necessary. With new supervisor Cynthia Foards (Catherine Keener) stepping in, and returning teammate Steve Forsing (Jeffrey Donovan) at his 6, there is only one man that can accomplish this, Alejandro (Benico Del Toro).
I mentioned this in the review for Sicario in 2015, but I have to admit that this second one is going to be a bit skewed. Both of my parents are from the border town Brownsville, with a large portion of my family still living there. The situation expressed in the film is something they deal with on a daily basis. It causes constant fear and altered life, it is what it is, and Tayler Sheridan (writer) has done a beautiful job in bringing awareness to that. At times I may see beyond cinematic oversights because it is one of the only series that actually touches on the reality, the brutal reality of life on the border.
That being said, Sheridan was’t afraid to go there with situations, going where a lot of people already go to when the hot-button issue is brought up. What I appreciate about this is that at he does not make it about politics, it’s not one side over the other, it’s what’s literally happening at the border. The truth behind the complicated world of inter-agency cooperation and the power of money, all which bleed over into our side of the river.
In a story like this, it is hard not to wander into the political territories, and Sicario: Day of the Soldado does, but it does so in a way that each side gets their jabs. One side got its wish to address the terrorist connection with illegal border crossings, but the other side also got their win when that was determined to be a false statement. No one is safe from the brutal actuality of todays world. The film does lose it’s focus on this plot-driven incident, but that doesn’t mean the consequences leave as well.
It’s a crass analogy, but Sicario: Day of the Soldado steps in shit thinking they were wearing rain boots, but were really wearing dress shoes, and spends the rest of the movie trying to remove the mess without being noticed. The re-focus of the film is a little jaunting, but it’s done in a way that makes sense. They set up the real focus early on in the film, we just didn’t pay attention. As long as the characters stay true to their reality, which they do, the story direction will make sense in whatever way it’s being pulled. As I was leaving the theater, I overheard several people unhappy with the 3rd Act of the film.
I can understand where this is coming from, and to some extent I think it’s valid, but like the film in general I think there is much more at work than what’s on the surface. As much as our past does not dictate our future, it does define us. Alejandro is a perfect example of that, and when his story evolves towards the end, it opens a new chapter in the ever changing narrative of life. I do think it could have been tighter, but the payoff of the character in the future is worth the rough road at present.
There are two things about Sicario: Day of the Soldado (as well as the first); the nuances in detail and the leading men. I don’t remember really paying attention to Brolin before No Country for Old Men, but damn! Every role since (pretty much) has been impressive. I guess every actor needs their breakout, no matter when it comes in their career, where they can shine in their true talent. If it wasn’t for NCFOM, I don’t know if he’d be able to do the diversity he has done, including this movie. When you pair him with Del Toro, who is equally vulnerable and terrifying, it’s magic. I’m blown away by everything I’ve seen of Del Toro’s, his intensity shines, but in this one there is such vulnerability, his heart explains everything.
In my opinion, what makes this film so powerful is the nuances throughout. Details litter the environment, from jabs at parties through casual dialogue to the acknowledgement of the world beyond the frames of the film. Sheridan uses these to create a larger world for the audience to become engrossed in. There is a reality, a fullness, established that takes the story to a new realm, one in and of itself, lives beyond the pages he used to write the film.
In a world where politics and points of argument can divide relations, somehow Sicario: Day of the Soldado was able to see beyond that and present a film that shows the truth. Its savage and complicated, but in that grim reality. It’s a perfect storm, with Sheridan’s writing with Brolin and Del Toro’s talents, this film moves beyond political borders to thrive on characters, those that are present on the outside and those that are concealed within us.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado opens nationwide Friday, June 29, 2018
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Sony