Denis Villeneuve shone a light on issues that now seem more rife than ever in 2015’s hard-hitter Sicario. For its follow-up, sub-headed Day of the Soldado, the concerns at hand are more unnerving than before, and whilst the argument of whether or not the original film needed a sequel is still a valid talking point, Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima proves a worthy successor, crafting a tale that succeeds as both a continuation and a stand-alone narrative.
Ditching the original film’s voice of reason, Emily Blunt, Soldado adopts a more brutal, masculine mentality focusing on the returning Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro) and Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), the respective hitman and CIA agent that toyed with the boundaries of morality in Villeneuve’s predecessor. Uniting in a bid to eradicate the immigration of potential terrorists onto US soil, Gillick and Graver plan an elaborate turf war of sorts between rival cartels, kidnapping the daughter of a top kingpin (an impressive Isabela Moner) in the process.
The film, scripted (like the original) by Taylor Sheridan, straddles successfully between the action-friendly mold of a Hollywood thriller and a more subtle think-piece on today’s immigrant mistreatment; sequences involving the mishandling of those crossing the border, and an immensely tense set-piece involving suicide bombers in a suburban outlet mall, play into the film’s mindset of executing both frames with an unapologetic nature.
Soldado isn’t without its faults however as the absence of Blunt is sorely missed, and though replacing her in any manner would’ve been a task placed hotly under a microscope, the film fails to supply a female character that’s even half as interesting, with Catherine Keener’s CIA agent barely managing an impression beyond her steely gaze; Moner’s feisty pawn in Gillick’s game earns more prominence though. And the final scene feels a little too tacked-on in its bid to introduce a second sequel, though it ultimately proves satisfactory due to Soldado‘s overall feel of hinting at an arc that’s yet to be defined.
When it works though, Soldado is a strapping piece of work, holding its audience hostage to the villainous prowess of Del Toro in a manner that feels accepted; the allure of the actor proves the film’s greatest asset. It’s a brutal film, and not one necessarily viewed for enjoyment, but such is the power of its creators that we can’t help but watch what unfolds in front of us.
About Sicario: Day of the Soldado
FBI agent Matt Graver calls on mysterious operative Alejandro Gillick when Mexican drug cartels start to smuggle terrorists across the U.S. border. The war escalates even further when Alejandro kidnaps a top kingpin’s daughter to deliberately increase the tensions. When the young girl is seen as collateral damage, the two men will determine her fate as they question everything that they are fighting for.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is in cinemas from June 28th.