Sicario: Day of the Soldado Reviews
In the first film, we saw the convoluted and VERY morally / ethically suspect work of a group of law enforcement officers looking to make an impact on the drug trade along the border between Mexico and America, through the eyes of a tough but naive border agent (Emily Blunt). As she learned about the tactics, the brutality, etc...we learned right alongside her. Although some scenes in this movie from the over-rated Dennis Villaneuve (ARRIVAL and the recent intolerably boring BLADE RUNNER) were so dark you couldn't tell what was going on...there were well delineated performances and a sharp script from the amazing Taylor Sheridan (HELL OR HIGH WATER, WIND RIVER). The sequel has no real "new comer" to the game (Blunt is not in the sequel), but instead focuses on the returning characters of Josh Brolin (a CIA-type who uses "anything at his disposal" to clamp down on border crossings and the drug trade, and Benecio del Toro, a former attorney who know spends his time doing dirty work on behalf of the government, because he has a personal vendetta against the cartels.
Everything is highly predictable. Imagine, terrorists sneaking into America by joining in with groups of Central Americans who have paid drug mules to get them across. Stirring up trouble by tricking the cartels to get into a war with each other. Mexican law enforcement pretending to be helping the Americans, but then turning on them. (This predictable turn of events did lead to the most exciting action sequences of the film. The calm of the Americans in the face of machine gun fire into their bullet-proof windshields [which are slowly cracking] was a visceral thrill.) Del Toro continues to exact revenge, although this film gives us a chance to see his "good side." The Americans trigger the cartel war by kidnapping the daughter of a kingpin, but making it look like another cartel has done the deed. No surprise, things don't go well and the Americans agree that all witnesses (including the daughter) need to be "erased."
What I have described sounds very ordinary...but the crisp script (again from Sheridan) keeps things moving along quickly with lots of convincing detail to make all the events at least seem credible (they most certainly are NOT upon sober reflection). The specter of terrorists is effectively evoked in the early going of the film (although pretty much forgotten through most of the scenes). Frankly, these characters don't seem to care too much about the reasons for their fight...they just enjoy playing with their fancy toys. The whole film has an amoral veneer. These are men who have long since lost any real humanity, and are now highly trained killing machines. The performances from the two leads are suitably gritty (although Brolin relies too heavily on chewing gum really loudly to show how tightly wound he is). DelToro never fails to be interesting in a film...he's got a look that simply alerts us to the fact that lots of dark feelings are swirling behind his eyes. And in the SICARIO films, that characteristic suits the role perfectly. (I will say that Catherine Keener, in a small role has never been LESS convincing. I like her A LOT, but she just seems off and uncomfortable. Perhaps such a deeply immoral person is tough for her to play?)
This is a violent film with lots of casual death. It's told with an immediacy that is undeniably gripping. It comes off like an intelligent exploration of our border quandries, but it is really just very classy trash. Full of stereotypes and plot twists that aren't too surprising. But I still liked it because is also exuded grit, confidence and its own verisimilitude. The action sequences are very well staged. Characters are quickly sketched out for us. And by shamelessly tying America's understandable fear of terrorist attacks on our soil with our much murkier feelings about our southern borders, the film allows us to feel a certain deep-down satisfaction at having everything dumbed down to a battle between our "good guys who don't mind getting dirty" and the "poor, but completely heartless criminal culture along Mexico's border." It's a pretty bad movie told with extreme confidence and zest.
Sooo, Sicario is at least a trilogy, basing it on the ending of this one. Solid performance from Benicio (who looks a whole lot like a Latino Brad Pitt) and Josh.