2015’s Sicario, from Director Denis Villeneuve, was a spectacular film and fairly self-contained. However, where there’s potential money to be had, sequels will follow. So now, we have Day of the Soldado. Villeneuve, who was busy with last year’s magnificent Blade Runner 2049, has passed the directorial reins to Stefano Sollima and original Writer Taylor Sheridan returns to pen the sequel. Does Day of the Soldado live up to Sicario’s legacy or does it cower in its shadow?
A small rash of bombings has the U.S. government overreacting and because one bomber snuck across the U.S.-Mexico border with the help of the Reyes Drug Cartel, Homeland Security classifies the cartels as terrorist organizations. This gives the government all sorts of tools in which to strike at the cartels. One of those tools is CIA agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), who calls in the sicario, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). The plan is to kidnap Reyes’ daughter, Isabel (Isabela Moner), and make it look like one of the other cartels did it. However, the government loses its appetite for what they’ve gotten themselves into and Matt’s boss, Cynthia Foards (Catherine Keener), says for it all to go away, including Alejandro. That puts Matt and Alejandro on a collision course. Who will come out of this alive?
Day of the Soldado is a dark, tense, violent film, but it is nowhere near as good as Sicario. The story isn’t as complex and it was strange to see Alejandro care so much for Isabel, considering his actions at the end of the first film. Also, the ending is completely open-ended, which for a film like this is a bit annoying. In the first film, there was a B-story that ultimately tied into the climax of the film and Sheridan attempts that again here, but that B-story isn’t really tied off in the end, which I found to be frustrating. I think part of the problem is that while Alejandro is a great character, he’s better when he’s used sparingly. To make him the main character kind of ruins the mystique a little bit, though this film doesn’t really reveal all his secrets. All this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Day of the Soldado, I did, but I didn’t feel it was as satisfying a film as Sicario.
The entire cast does a great job here. Although I’m not sure making Alejandro the focus of the film was the right decision, Del Toro is still a complete badass in the role. He’s easily the best part of both films and a great anti-hero. Brolin is a total asshole as Matt, which completely fits. He’s a good foil for Alejandro and they make a good team. I also liked Moner as Isabel. She captures the right amount of bravado that a drug lord’s daughter would have as well as the fear one would experience by being kidnapped. Just a really nice job all the way around by the cast.
Overall, I enjoyed Day of the Soldado, but I was definitely left wanting more closure than I got. The story felt a bit too streamlined for me and some of the twists were easy to spot down the road. It’s a nice addition to the Sicario saga, but it feels like it’s an unnecessary one.