Sicario Day of the Soldado had standards hard to beat, and we are talking about Denis Villeneuve standards. So does it even graze it? Fortunately, yes. The series that kickstarted in 2015 with the first installment has not been lost yet thanks to Taylor Sheridan who has once again taken the story forward by writing an absolute beauty. Sadly this movie is less on the action front as was promoted via trailers, but if you have a good solid fortified story in the front seat, petty things like that hardly matter.
The politics in Sicario Day of the Soldado is high on dope and the capricious behavior of government is simply frustrating. You almost get an idea of how the government works, how it doesn’t flinch whilst taking bold decisions and then how it becomes terrified trying to see it all the way through. You fathom that even the people who actually get the job done, happen to be nothing but tiny specks who don’t matter to a comfy sprawled up system.
Unfortunately, it works the same in every enclave of life. You go anywhere, that’s how the world rolls today. You don’t have a say in anything if you are not at the top of the chain. All you can do is suggest your ideas, put forth things to keep the engine of life rolling, but even if somebody at the highest notch wishes to listen, you are tightly bound to a single order. One word and everything that you have so carefully built will fall like dominoes. Everything boils down to just one man’s command who will do anything to save his name.
Sicario Day of the Soldado leverages that quotient effectively and depicts men trapped under decisions. It shows how brave men crumble even when they are at the top of their game.
Direction and Plot of Sicario Day of the Soldado (Spoilers)
The direction of Sicario Day of the Soldado by Stefano Sollima turned out to be surprisingly good if not matching the levels of Denis. That brings to mind the glorious depiction of an ambush from the perspective of a little girl inside a van. Not for once do we see a theatrical glorification of the men shooting at the convoy. It is like living a tale from your very own perspective. There are no faces to evil. From the vantage of a girl every man with a gun is. It is one of the most powerful scenes from the movie.
Sollima is great with building up. He becomes successful in creating some real tension. When you see your hero trapped in a situation, you are constantly feeling that mind-numbing blow in your heart, scanning tiny moves by the enemy. You are constantly rooting for him to escape a tight situation. If a director is able to create that thrilling nail-biting moment without giving away what’s going to happen, he has managed to rivet you in a trance. That’s what happens here.
Stefano Sollima is also unafraid of depicting gore. Blood is not splattered all across the movie since a lot of areas are left to the viewer’s imagination. But when it is an absolute necessity there is no doubt aplenty.
This sequel explores US’s involvement once again on Mexico’s soil after a tragic bombing occurs in a mall in Kansas City. As a comeback bid, Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) is put on a mission to use extreme measures against those suspected to transport terrorists from Mexico. In comes Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro) who is hired to start a war between cartels.
Matt Graver: You gonna help us start a war.
Alejandro: With who?
Matt Graver: With everyone.
Alejandro then slays a crooked lawyer of Matamoros cartel in a theatrical display of wrath. Later the team nabs Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner), the daughter of a kingpin of their rivals to piss them off. They stage a rescue with the help of DEA, to plant the idea that she was kidnapped by her father’s enemies. Their mission is to escort her back to Mexico but to hand her over to her father’s rivals so as to inflame the strain.
The team gets ambushed by Mexican police as Isabel escapes amid havoc. That’s where Alejandro parts with Graver and decides to pursue Isabel alone. The US Government figures out that they messed up since two of the suicide bombers were actually US citizens and were not smuggled in as were preconceived. The mission to mess with the cartels is aborted at once and Graver is asked to erase everything that could link their involvement. Meaning even Isabel is to be executed.
I could throw a stick across the river and hit fifty grieving fathers.
On being ordered to do so, Gillick refuses thereby turning rogue. Disguised as illegal immigrants Gillick and Isabel try to enter the US as Graver and his team tries to hunt them down in Mexico.
One of the best conversations happens when not a word is spoken. It is aced by a power pack performance by Bruno Bichir‘s character of a deaf person. Gillick and Isabel bump into him as the former uses sign language to speak to him. In a world of chaos where nobody trusts anyone, the poor old deaf man comes as a blessing.
After being identified by a coyote named Miguel (Elijah Rodriguez), Gallo (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), who handles the business of illegal immigrants, nabs Gillick and Isabel. He then forces Miguel to shoot Gillick taking Isabel captive.
The Sicario Killer
Even though Miguel hesitates to shoot Gillick at first, he shoots him in the head as the gang moves on leaving the sicario to die. Frustrated at what he has become and what his gang sees him as – “A Sicario Killer” which was nothing but a feigned conceit for him (probably because he felt he just killed a tied man who had no choice and that there was no honor in what he did), he chooses to walk away from them.
Graver with his team, with the help of a tracker planted on Isabel, tracks her down and executes Gallo and his gang. Eventually, he decides to have mercy on the girl and rescues her to be put on Witness protection in the US, thus going against his orders.
Meanwhile, it turns out, Gillick is not after all dead, that the bullet had gone straight through his jaw. He lifts himself up walks up to a car and then drives for the border. You will have your heart in your mouth watching him gradually rise and fall. The reality engulfed in that scene is simply mind-boggling.
One year later we find him in good shape as he tracks down Miguel the boy who had shot him, asks him if he wants to be a sicario.
So you want to be a Sicario?
With that, the curtains drop. Seems like we have another part in the making. A brilliant way to leave the strands open.
You can order Sicario: Day of the Soldado from here:
What was Baffling?
Baffling was the conclusive bits I would say. Even though they were gorgeously aced, may be back in our minds we didn’t want it to get over so soon. Maybe a badass fight scene before all hell broke loose for Alejandro would have been more exciting. We knew what Alejandro could do, but he felt powerless when surrounded by Gallo’s gang. Failing to do any considerable damage and getting shot in the head felt like a plastic bag trapped in a hurricane.
To a person watching Sicario Day of the Soldado for the first time, without the knowledge of what went down in the first, explaining how badass Alejandro felt frustrating. Primarily because Stefano failed to leverage him more in here. Alejandro Gillick felt trampled and weak when put in a tight situation. I guess we could have used him more to depict his real power.
The eventuality of the flick Sicario Day of the Soldado has a statement from Alejandro who ends the movie by pressing the question of Miguel wanting to be a sicario. But there hasn’t been a single talk about him wishing to be one. He was a coyote, yes, and he did shoot him and got branded as a Sicario Killer. But that didn’t mean he wanted to be one. It was a matter of choice which from Miguel’s disapproval of his killing act felt like taken. Unfortunately, Gillick’s statement, in the end, felt like an assertion, as if Miguel didn’t have a choice yet again. That fact itches somewhere.
The Final Verdict
Goes without saying that Denis is hard to beat, or even match horns with. That was a standard impossible to match for any director who was going to step in for the sequel. Surprisingly Sollima’s work isn’t bad at all. You can witness a lot of seriousness captured inside his grim frames. You get riveted to the story at once knowing something huge is at stake.
The good thing is that we get to see Graver in action a lot. He spends a lot of onscreen time complementing the story properly with his involvement. At the end of it all, you can’t help but wonder if Sicario Day of the Soldado could have used a little more action. Or a tad more badassery from Alejandro’s character which was on the receiving end for a long time.
But to be honest, everything fell into place and felt justified in the end.