Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Viewers who adored the moral ambiguity of Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario will find no such ethical conundrums in its sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado.
But for those who thought the predecessor’s hardened characters, suspenseful convoy drives and actions scenes, crisp cinematography and wealth of military porn were its strongest assets, Vol. 2 plays like a tenderloin slice of the initial chapter.
Even with Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan continuing the U.S./Mexico drug war narrative, there’s not a whiff of pretension to be found under the guidance of Italian director Stefano Sollima, largely thanks to the absence of Emily Blunt’s idealistic FBI agent.
In turn, there’s no repeated, extended looks at her horrified, audience-stand-in face to hammer home the calamitous situation as Sollima trusts moviegoers to infer the conflict’s tangled web through fluid storytelling and the crafty moves by CIA agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and elite assassin Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) to disrupt Mexican drug cartel trafficking of terrorists across the U.S. border.
While the logistics of inevitably important Mexican-American teen Miguel (Elijah Rodriguez, The Book of Life) helping illegal immigrants cross into Texas are slightly muddled, and Graver’s government superiors played by Catherine Keener and Matthew Modine are one-note in their unflappable seriousness, the characters more than not propel the story forward and barely detract from its dark energy.
Focusing on the high-risk, high-reward central mission involving a cartel honcho’s daughter (Isabela Moner, Transformers: The Last Knight) and the riveting complications that arise, Day of the Soldado delivers elite action-centered entertainment and sets up a promising third installment — that is, if Sollima or a filmmaker with similar interests is the one behind the camera.
Grade: B-plus. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Columbia Pictures)