When Sicario came out some years ago it took the world by surprise. It was yet another movie in Denis Villeneuve‘s filmography that helped establish him as one of the most interesting directors of the moment. But the glory of Sicario wasn’t just for Villeneuve. Taylor Sheridan also got his fair share of glory.
Sheridan‘s a curious case. He was an actor that felt unhappy acting so he decided to quit acting to pursue screnwriting and directing. Sicario was his writing debut and things went great for him after that, because he followed up with Hell or High Water and Wind River (which he also directed).
Slightly before Sicario came out Sheridan confirmed he was writing a sequel. This sequel was originally called Soldado. Although because of some issues between producers and distributors Soldado became just a subtitle and the film is either Sicario: Day of the Soldado or Sicario 2: Soldado. From now on I’ll refer to the film as Soldado for short.
So, now that it’s out, where does it stand in comparison to the previous one?
“You Wanna See This Thing Through? I’m Gonna Have To Get Dirty”
Soldado follows once more Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro‘s characters, who are the only returning actors from Sicario (apart from Jeffrey Donovan). This time their war agains the cartels takes a different twist because the cartels are smuggling terrorists into the US. So with the subtlety that characterised their characters they decide to bring the war to the cartels by making them fight each other.
On paper it sounds like a great idea for a film, but it feels rushed. The two hours the film lasts went flying by and it leaves a lot of loose threads dangling. Sicario had a lot of those, but this time it just feels like “Oh well, this is just a hook for the sequel.” And the film treats the operation against the cartels as an afterthought, I would’ve loved to see more scenes of the squad planning, or just them fucking shit up. Although they fuck plenty of shit up to begin with.
There’s also the fact that both movies are tonally very different. There was a certain innocence to Sicario. Emily Blunt‘s character started idealistic but became jaded and disillusioned in the end. This element is missing here and it’s replaced by a Benicio del Toro‘s arc that doesn’t really see a resolution.
“Dirty Is Exactly Why You’re Here.”
Part of me wishes Soldado could’ve had all the band together. I missed Emily Blunt. I wanter her character to encounter del Toro and Brolin again. Her absence is what makes this more like a spin-off. A spin-off that got slapped a 2 on the title for baffling marketing reasons.
Vileneuve‘s absence makes sense, I mean he was busy both with Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. Stefano Sollima does a decent enough work. But the truly painful absence is that of Jóhann Jóhannson. The movie is dedicated to him and I found that pretty poignant. Hildur Guðnadóttir, who collaborated with Jóhannson in the past, composed an amazing soundtrack. The kind of soundtrack that keeps you on edge. But Jóhansson leaving this world so soon will forever be a tragedy.
Still, if there’s something that makes the film it’s Benicio del Toro. His character, like he did in Sicario, steals the show. And when it comes to Josh Brolin, he continues to be the most threatening man to wear crocs on film. Matthew Modine and Catherine Keener show the other side of the coin. The one that always says “Do whatever you want but don’t let it get back at me.” Although Keener is criminally underused.
“You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do.”
The film is still quite good, it just pales in comparison to Sicario. It might be an unfair comparison but since they’re part of the same series I wanted this one to be as good, or even better. There were plenty of moments that had me at the edge of my seat because of how tense things looked.
I’m really looking forward to seeing where a third film will take the characters. It’s still amazing that a slight Taylor Sheridan misfire still results in a good film.
Angry Spaniard, adoptive Irishman. Writer, reader, tea drinker and video game player/designer.