Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Movie Information

The Story: A government agent is tasked with starting a war between Mexican drug cartels in the wake of a terrorist attack by kidnapping the daughter of one syndicate's scion and pinning it on the other. The Lowdown: An overwrought and unnecessary sequel lacking the ideological nuance of its predecessor.
Genre: Action Thriller
Director: Stefano Sollima
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener
Rated: R


2015’s Sicario was a film awash in moral ambiguity and politically motivated turpitude; its sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a film drowning in blood and testosterone. Gratuitously violent and narratively slipshod, Day of the Soldado abandons its predecessor’s ethical gray areas in favor of something cheaper, dirtier and lazier, ditching nuance in favor of unremitting bleakness. If the first film was a thought-provoking elegy, this unnecessary follow-up is little more than a labored grunt of resignation.


Much of what’s missing from Soldado comes down to Emily Blunt — not so much the actress herself (although her participation might have helped), but the presence of her character’s conflicted initiation into writer Taylor Sheridan’s world of nebulous allegiances and questionable motivations. Without the perspective of a character like Blunt’s Kate Macer to provide a rational counterpoint to the overblown machismo of Josh Brolin’s shady secret agent Matt Graver and Benicio Del Toro’s lawyer-turned-assassin Alejandro Gillick, Soldado becomes a one-note paean to the dangers of porous borders.


In the hands of Italian TV director Stefano Sollima, that danger seems to flow from North to South rather than vice versa.  Sheridan’s script sets up an expansion of the war on terror to include the Mexican drug cartels, and Sollima starts things off with a literal bang. But Sollima doesn’t hold a candle to Denis Villeneuve, and where that director’s treatment of the subject was replete with inspired set pieces like walls full of corpses, the best Sollima can achieve is a relatively predictable humble ambush and a street-side kidnapping that could have been lifted from any number of heist movies.


Sollima’s proficient but uninspired direction aside, the real problem here is in Sheridan’s script. Despite his prodigious accomplishments in character development with 2016’s Hell or High Water, he seems to have abandoned all sense of subtlety in exchange for an overblown exercise in action movie mayhem, an unexpected failure from an otherwise talented writer. While Brolin and Del Toro are both as menacingly electrifying in their respective turns as they were the last time around, there’s far less for them to sink their teeth into with Soldado. Perhaps Sheridan’s most damning fault in this case is rooted in the film’s ending, which sets up a perfunctory sequel creating a trilogy where one film more than sufficed.


If Soldado falls short of its predecessor on stylistic and story terms, it also does so philosophically. Whereas the prior Sicario film encouraged viewers to consider the ramifications of narco state warfare from both sides of the border, Soldado seems to espouse a sort of ambivalent Trumpian paranoia; in Sheridan’s narrative world, the only thing stopping bad guys with guns are good guys with guns, except there are no good guys and everyone has guns. It’s a peculiar stance that absolutely undermines the entire point of the first film and leaves the next on shaky idealogical ground. I’m not sure which Soldado is having his titular day here, but I am sure that it’s a bad one. Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, and language. 

Now Playing at AMC River Hills 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic of Hendersonville.


Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.