Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Speculation typically followed Denis Villeneuve’s decision to take a step back from production on the sequel to his 2015 blockbuster, leaving the weight of expectation to fall upon the shoulders of Italian director and screenwriter Stefano Sollima, best known for his work on the 2012 drama All Cops Are Bastards and his neo-noir gangster thriller Suburra. This exclusion – coupled with the eviction of primary Sicario cast member Emily Blunt – has called for Taylor Sheridan to apply his extraordinary and fanciful writing talents to summon up a screenplay that will not only emulate the themes of morality and justice displayed in the first instalment, but also fill the space vacated by a complexly conflicted female protagonist. Choosing not to reprise Blunt’s FBI Agent Kate Macer could be judged to be a smart move, offering a breath of fresh air and freedom to the plot and its characters, yet equally her expulsion could well be an inhalation of effluvium that suffocates the sequel into nauseous obscurity of the “at least you tried” category on the shelf. So Sollima, what’s it going to be?
Following on from the events of its predecessor, Sicario: Day of the Soldado opens on one of the most conflicted locations on western soil; the Texan border with Mexico. In the modern day, it’s no longer drugs that are making their way across this border for profit, but people, and no one is more aware of this than cold-hearted, stone-faced CIA agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). With a sharp rise in terror attacks orchestrated by smuggled terrorists causing itchy feet in Washington, Graver reconnects with former secret operative Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) to create cartel warfare via the execution of a covert operation. However, relations between the cartels, Mexican officials and the United States are not as clear as they first appear, forcing Graver and Gillick to modify their mission objective in a bid for their own survival amongst a minefield of moral conflicts.
It is instantly evident from the opening scenes that this film has been subject to immense planning and construction in an effort to justify its means as a high-quality sequel. Through a powerful script exuding sincerity and direction, any foreboding doubts about the relevancy of the follow-up are blown apart figuratively and literally, with explosive cinematography exhibiting expansive shots of luscious scenery intermingled with gut-churning gore and violence. The familiar rumbling undertones of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s original score, made so iconic by its presence in Villeneuve’s first picture, is emulated and personified by Mary Magdelene collaborator Hildur Guðnadóttir, who adds her own creative touch and experience to this vital component.
Aside from the writing, cinematography and score, it must also be noted that even with the exclusion of Blunt, this movie features a cast of incredible strength, including both veterans of the industry and up-and-coming names. It is true that the film is crying out for a greater female presence that can offer an alternate dimension to the flesh of this masculine skeleton, but in an attempt to combat this we are introduced to the wonderful talent that is Isabela Moner, who is nothing short of astonishing in her role as the kidnapped daughter of a drug lord Isabela Reyes. Partnered up with the unstoppable force that is Del Toro, the two battle it out for screen presence, the returning actor’s wave of pensive, unwavering energy accentuated clinically by Reyes’ painful innocence and distress.
As a whole, it is almost too difficult to compare this latest release with its predecessor, but perhaps that is a good thing? After all, why should one film suffer at the hands of its older sibling, when rather than feeding off the success of its precursor, Sicario: Day of the Soldado makes a valiant effort to become its own beast?
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is released nationwide on 29th June 2018.
Watch the trailer for Sicario: Day of the Soldado here: