‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado’ is gritty, unrelenting yet pointless (review)

“You’re going to help us start a war.”

2015’s Sicario is a gritty tale of corruption and ruthlessness on the Mexican border seen through the eyes of an idealistic FBI agent. This film shook moviegoers to their core, giving spectators a brief -if not poignant- glimpse of the situation from the perspective of an unsuspecting and innocent Emily Blunt. It’s through her that the audience is able to connect.

Her character holds the key to seeing this masterpiece as a whole, showing the explosion from the outside in, and revealing to the audience only what the they need to see. Three years later, the sequel of the film drops, and fans flock to the theater to see this story continue in Sicario: Day of the Soldado. The question is, will fans get the same beautiful chaos they experienced from the first film?

Soldado begins a new chapter in the trilogy. In the drug war, there are no rules – and as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border, federal agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) calls on the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), whose family was murdered by a cartel kingpin, to escalate the war in nefarious ways. Alejandro kidnaps the kingpin’s daughter to inflame the conflict – but when the girl is seen as collateral damage, her fate will come between the two men as they question everything they are fighting for.

“No rules this time.”

Helmed by Italian director Stefano Sollima, Soldado doesn’t follow the same formula from the first film, and chooses to thrust moviegoers into the world of corruption and underhanded government officials. Although the film does proceed to jar viewers at the very beginning, much like the first film does. But aside from that, it departs from the structure set by its predecessor entirely.

The biggest loss this film suffers from is that it no longer has an outside perspective for the audience to view from. The Emily Blunt-type character is not in this film, creating the perspective to experience the horrible world that the film presents. Without the illusion of what these characters could be capable of, we are given a look at what happens behind the curtain. We see them as mere mortals, much like everyone else, taking away what drove the audience for the first film.

The film does don a strong cast, with incredible performers such as Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Catherine Keener. Del Toro and Brolin, respectively, do reprise their roles from the film film, but as I mentioned earlier, their ruthlessness is washed away, as we see the cracks in their masks up close. Keener’s character, as well as some of the other performances are mere afterthoughts, as the film chooses to focus more on the two previously mentioned characters.

The film does try to place our point of view on to Isabela Moner’s character, but the film never translates it well enough. Moner, however, is the standout performer in this film. Her ability to showcase her acting range in this film far exceeded my expectations, as she easily steals every scene that she is in.

“You got to do what you got to do.”

The film does do an incredible job at highlighting the breathtaking landscape of Mexico’s vast desert between it and the United States. The large expanse of land that separates many from freedom holds a beautiful parallel to our current socioeconomic status of the country we live in. Soldado carries this imagery with pride, as it never lets up at all the reality of what happens at our borders daily.

It delivers to audiences its commentary on how even though terror may seem like it’s come from afar, or just beyond a border, we have yet to fully realize that we breed our own monsters. That we cultivate our own destruction daily, because we’ve abandoned hope and humanity to make a buck. This film sells this message from the very beginning, to the very end.

All in all, Sicario: Day of the Soldado does its best to keep with the lightning-in-a-bottle formula the first film created, but sadly falls short. In its attempt, the film delivers a raw and gritty, yet pointless tale of the wars that occur unbeknownst to us, that may have started with us. Unfortunately, the violence and graphic nature of this film seems to be washed out by how often and how carelessly it is punctuated in the film. Thus, we are given a film that could have carried a strong message, but never had anyone capable enough to deliver it.

Rating: 2.5/5 Atoms

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