#REVIEW: “SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
After a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, the government calls in Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) when they discover it has direct ties with the Mexican drug cartels. Graver asks Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) to join his team and destroy the problem. But that is easier said than done – especially once the plan goes bad.
I was ambivalent before watching Sicario: Day of the Soldado. This is a Sequel no one was really begging for, and its title is both incoherent and contradictory (Sicario means “assassin”, while Soldado means “soldier”). But Director Stefano Sollima and returning Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan have crafted a mostly gripping Picture here about moral quandaries, loyalty and the price of the war on drugs on both sides of the law. The Film never takes the easy way out on any of these elements, and constantly ratchets up the tension as it builds on them. It also amps-up the action sequences (along with the twisted and cruel brutality), with each one more suspenseful and gritty than the last. Some of the smaller moments are even better – including a throw-away gag in the final ten minutes that is destined to become an all-timer.
But all of the good will Sollima musters cannot mask the fact that Soldado is emotionally-hollow and about one breath short of a total mess. The Film’s set-up is methodical, narrow and drawn out. Once the plan – involving kidnapping the daughter of a drug lord — goes to hell however, the Film begins moving in multiple directions with no clear idea of what it wants to be. Instead of focusing on morals, it starts focusing on egregious contradictions that make sense to no one on or off screen. Worse, it runs out of time wrapping up all the story threads that it starts and ends up spending its final 15 minutes putting all the characters in place for another sequel. I was bewildered when the Film finally cut to credits not because I was unhappy it was over, but because I could not believe that anyone signed off on a non-ending like this.
As expected, Brolin and del Toro shine through every moment that Soldado throws at them, and do a great job developing on their characters’ enigmatic backgrounds. Brolin thankfully gets used here more effectively than he was in Sicario, and alongside his high-profile turns in Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 last month, continues to prove what an incredibly versatile talent he is. del Toro does him one better, practically igniting the screen into flames every time he appears. He is slightly less menacing than he was previously, but just as cold, calculated and determined. I just wish they better explained his unique thought process for firing a pistol. Supporting turns from young actors Isabela Moner and Elijah Rodriguez are terrific and often more engaging than the seasoned veterans around them.
There are some kernels of greatness packed within Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Despite the change in behind the scenes team, the Film still looks great, the acting from the main players is excellent and the ideas that propel the Film from beginning to end are quite interesting. But the second half of Soldado is messy, and the Film’s direction never really recovers during these scenes. And the Film’s non-ending will definitely make some audiences feel disappointed. But for a sequel few were asking for, it could have been a whole lot worse.
Sony Pictures Canada release SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO on Friday, June 29, 2018.