Movie Review: Sicario: Day of the Saldado

For those of you who read my most anticipated movies of 2018 then you know how excited I was for the sequel to the 2015 film Sicario. Well, I should say worried and excited. The first is a brilliant, tense, and thought-provoking look at the Mexican cartels. Sure, some things were questionable and exaggerated, but nothing is perfect. All in all, it was a solid film that stood on its own two feet. Now Hollywood gives us a sequel that is not needed.

Most of the same cast and members of the crew remained. Taylor Sheridan wrote the first film and has been on his A game for writing and directing. With his release of Wind River and Hell or High Water, I thought that Sicario: Day of the Soldado would be safe. Taylor took the director’s chair for the sequel when the first film had Dennis Villeneuve who has also been on a streak of successful movies such as Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival. His absence might be a factor as to the downgrade of quality in Day of the Saldado. Along with his absence, Emily Blunt’s character Kate is missing from the story. Sure, it would have been hard to do anymore with her character that would work. However, without her, a balance to the movie is missing. She brought in a lot to the story of the first film. Now we get a disconnection between both movies. At least we get Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, who always bring in excellent performances.

Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) is tasked with bringing all-out war against the cartels after a massive suicide bombing. The cartels are now being labeled as terrorists who give the U.S. military more freedom to intervene with the violence that is happening in both Mexico and the U.S. Matt teams up with Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) along with members of his team from the previous film. Their attacks on the cartels are made to look like rival cartels are attacking. The plan is for the cartels to wipe each other out. After a plan to take Isabella Reyes (Isabela Moner), the daughter of a major leader in one of the cartels goes in the wrong direction, a conflict between Alejandro and Matt is ignited. Alejandro goes rogue to protect the girl which leads him to a crossroads between several threats, the U.S. government and the cartels.

For the most part, a lot of the same tones are present. The film is, for the most part, a slow burn that shows the horrors of human trafficking by the cartels. However, the film feels a lot less grounded. Moments happen with characters’ motivations and their actions that feels unlike them. A lot of the time I am questioning decisions being made both by the creatives who made the film and the characters themselves. The first trailer mentions Sicario as a saga. That is accurate since the entirety of Day of the Saldado is a massive setup for more movies. A huge cash grab that disrespects the brilliance of the first film.

While everyone’s performances are excellent. The introduction to Isabella is a suitable replacement for a female lead since Emily Blunt is no longer present, or even mentioned at all. Josh Brolin is on a roll, especially this year with Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War. Although his performance is good, nothing is added to his character. Matt is just a man doing a job. He is determined to do what he is told to complete the mission. Other than that, nothing is expanded upon him as a character. Benicio Del Toro steals the film with his prosecutor turned hitman. Alejandro gets some development, but by the end feels wrong in so many ways by the way the film lends itself to a third installment. Some of his actions, especially in the final act, feel out of nowhere. The writing feels forced to make room for another sequel.

While the action is not a central point of the film, it is the tension. The action sequences are done just as well as the first installment. We get plenty of Alejandro doing what he is best at, which is taking down anyone in his path. The violence is an enjoyable distraction from some of the problems with the story and characters. A mix of the original’s slow tension along with some typical Hollywood explosions mixes things up to make for some good entertainment.

One excellent quality from the first film that is still mostly intact is the cinematography. With the director of cinematography is changed to Dariusz Wolski (The Martian and Alien: Covenant) the shots are still beautifully done. A lot less memorable shots are in the film, but the thought behind the way scenes are shot is still present. Beautiful sweeping shots of the desert and cities are throughout the film. The best scenes are captured perfectly to give everything that extra edge with some great camera work.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado is an entertaining movie, to say the least. An overall disappointment that feels like a cash grab from the studio instead of leaving the first to stand on its own. If this sequel needed to be made, then we needed a sequel that stands on its own and delivers everything and more from what the original gave audiences. If you have never seen Sicario, then it is a must watch. Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, and Emily Blunt are all excellent. Here we get some explosions and no new development that furthers any interest in the story or characters. Day of the Soldado is not a bad film by any means, but it is a prime example of a movie that is made to create a franchise to generate a lot of money. The second film in a series tends to suffer from just setting up the third installment without much conclusions to stand on its own two feet. Maybe a third film will redeem itself with a better outcome and development of characters, but for now, we should play it safe by keeping the first and scrapping the second. At least the film has Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, that is always some redemption.

Score: 6/10

Comparison grade to the first film: 9/10

Image via Columbia Pictures

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