Article By: Alice-Ginevra Micheli
In terms of questionable sequels, this is one of the clearest examples in recent memory. Coming from a seemingly stand-alone well-rounded political thriller, the fact that another in the same universe was soon to follow was baffling even for the most experienced moviegoers.
With expectations low and its future story murky, the question remains: did the sequel to Oscar nominated Sicario live up to its predecessor?
Sicario: Day of the Soldado continues the story of grieving hitman Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), who is roped back into the oncoming war between the American government and the Mexican cartels by friend and federal agent, Matt Graver (Josh Brolin).
With directors Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins not returning, there was a lot of pressure on the backs of the replacement filmmakers, Stefano Sollima and Dariusz Wolski. Having said that, the technical aspects of this film are still up to par; Not quite as fantastic as the ones that came before, but there is still a lot of talent that is present throughout.
The direction and cinematography are strong, depicting horrifying images of a world that exists underneath the one the general audience lives in their every day. Instead of a few brilliant moments of tension that enlightened the previous film, its presence is still palpable in this one, always slinking beneath the surface of each scene, as characters choose what side of the morally muddy coin they will land on. These perspectives are also expanded, as instead of keeping the story centered on a handful of characters, this takes a much wider perspective choosing to depict the Mexican and American’s own internal struggles as well as those that come from the other side.
What’s more, the music is quite fascinating in its delivery. Composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, the inspiration from the first film is definitely present. However, there is still a uniqueness within that makes it great in its own right. Taking advantage in the vibrations existing within an orchestral piece, there are moments which get under the skin purely as a result of its musical assistance.
However, all is not perfect in this seemingly successful venture. The main negative, grossly affecting the rest of the film, is the weakness of its characters – a result of a muddled script.
Where the first film had a tight storyline with fleshed out personalities pervading each corner of its world, this one feels like a bit of a mess, where plot is sacrificed for violence and character is sacrificed for action. Normally delivering a superb tale, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan dropped the ball with this one, having suffered under the expectations that come with writing a sequel to a successful film. What has occurred is a film that jumps from one plot point to another with the connection between the two being lost in the fray, which is generally full of guns and violence. Not to mention the lack of climax, which has it all end confusingly, leaving the viewer with more questions than answers.
The acting is strong, with Del Toro and Brolin bringing their A-Game once again, but it’s difficult to connect to the characters themselves. Returning from the last film, they end up just doing more of the same with barely any realistic or understandable evolution. The fault can probably be found in their promotion from supporting to leading roles. While previously their mystery and defiance to ethics resulted in a strong supporting role for the protagonist to draw on, their expanded role leaves much to be desired in potential and execution.
The real problem stems from the two new mains, infecting what could have been an interesting look into an underworld. Caricatures of real people, the two young actors, Isabela Moner and Elijah Rodriguez, try their best with what are very one dimensional and unrealistic characters. One has the sole purpose of bringing humanity to Del Toro’s assassin, and the other just skulks around the whole film, seemingly hating his life for no apparent reason, inviting disdain from even the most empathetic of audience members.
Finally, the action itself is a bit disappointing. As mentioned before, there is an element of tension throughout the runtime, but it is very rarely paid off with any spectacular scenes or memorable moments. Choosing instead to fall back on tried and true and – unimaginative methods, there are moments during supposedly climactic scenes where the audience may find themselves checking their watch, rather than being invested in the outcome.
Sicario: Day of the Soldadois a technically excellent film. The shots are beautiful, the imagery is captivating, and the aspects around it enhance their overall effectiveness. However, all of this fails as a result of a lacking story. An unclear plot paired with uninteresting characters makes the entire enterprise boring rather than exciting, ensuring a film that is fine, but in no way lives up to its predecessor.
MG Rating: 7/10