In 2015 Sicario came out of nowhere and ended up as one of the best films of the year. Its success was due in large part to its director, Denis Villeneuve and legendary cinematographer, Roger Deakins who elevate every project they come in contact with. When a sequel was announced without these two returning it left me highly skeptical about its potential. My interest stayed however when I learned that original Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan was returning to write the sequel. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers with such projects under his name like Hell or High Water and Wind River. He has an amazing ability to inhabit his stories and to usher the audience into a world that most often isn’t one of kindness and hope. His stories often consist of loss and revenge and characters with a general disdain for the world around them.
With Sicario the greatest strength was the character Kate Mercer who acted as the vehicle for which the audience could ride along with as she navigated a situation she truly didn’t understand. In a lawless land she was the moral compass trying, in complete futility, to right the wrongs she was constantly coming up against. At the end of Sicario her story is finished, the desire to bring those to justice was outweighed by the pure viciousness and complete anarchy that this world thrives on. She was a fish out of water in the beginning and by the end her innocence is tarnished but her lack of comprehension and willingness to step over a certain line still prevented her further involvement in such a bleak setting. Therefore her return wouldn’t make sense.
This is why Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a much darker, much more violent look into a world that operates under one rule: Kill or die. That morality that Kate Mercer provided is no longer present and so the wolves are allowed to roam and kill at will. She provided moments of clarity and civility and this time there is none of that to be seen. Innocence and the players of this horrifying game are both equally likely to end up in a grave, shallow or not. Lives are lost as if they are nothing more than targets at a shooting range and their loss is forgotten as soon as the bullets strike. This world that Taylor Sheridan has opened is one of pure soulless behavior that brings about emotions of disgust and shock. Is this really our world? Unfortunately so.
This is not a film trying to persuade anyone any which way. Rather it’s simply a window into a kind of existence that thrives on pain. It is unforgiving in every sense and these characters either try to escape or walk through it adding fuel to the burning mass and laugh gleefully as they do. As monstrous as our foes are, the terrorists that murder the innocent in large numbers, the cartel that perpetuate the violence and torture, Sicario 2 is a message that evil lives on both sides of this particular battlefield. Our own murder and dispose of anything and anyone that gets in the way and do so with no morality to speak of; they are in many ways just as soulless as those they are pursuing. Needless to say, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is not a feel good story of redemption. In the end nothing really changes and the violence is ongoing.
Sicario 2 tells the story of a little girl, daughter to a cartel boss, being kidnapped with the intention of it looking as if a rival cartel committed the act. The purpose is to create chaos amongst the wolves and force them to tear themselves apart. But the mission goes awry and all non-essential personnel are ordered to be wiped out, this includes the girl. Despite his tenacity and tendency toward heinous violence, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) sees his departed daughter in this little girl he has been ordered to eliminate. He ignores this order and chooses to protect her from now not only the cartels but our own government, all in hot pursuit. Countless bodies begin to fall as a result.
In my opinion the first in a planned trilogy of Sicario films, is so far the best installment. While Sicario 2 is a damn good film, a strong sequel with fascinating sequences with damning consequences, the first simply possesses better character development and a better balance of morality and immorality and provides an exciting look as these two opposites collide violently. The contrast of good and evil that Sicario has provides more moments of self reflection as it asks the audience what they would do in such a unique situation. Sicario 2 is more forward in the direction of showing what the evil of our planet does when left unchecked. It doesn’t really ask anything of its audience. Sicario 2 is much more spectator oriented rather than involving our own morality into the equation. That said, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a worthy follow-up that expands the violence the first introduced while deepening the rabbit hole and shoves us all in without warning. This is not a film to watch for a happy, feel good time. This is a film for those knowingly and willingly looking for an action oriented drama that holds nothing back. Most importantly, it leaves us wanting more, that as of yet approved third film in the Sicario saga.
Rated R For: strong violence, bloody images, and language
Runtime: 122 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Catherine Keener, Isabela Moner, Matthew Modine
Directed By: Stefano Sollima
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4.5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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