Benicio del Toro returns to the silver screen as death incarnate himself, Alejandro, the sicario, a modern day man with no name who walks right into the very heart of the beast in this dangerous and provocative follow-on from Sicario with Sicario: Day of the Soldado.
Following the events of Sicario, CIA Task Force Commander Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) is commanded to eliminate drug cartels operating in Mexico. Bringing Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) back into the fold, Graver and his top assassin return to Mexico to start a war between two rival cartels in an effort to silence them for good.
Where Denis Villenenue offered us an initiation into the very heart of darkness with Sicario, this time director Stefano Sollima takes us back to the ‘land of wolves’ as Alejandro coined it, but the stakes are now far higher than before. The Drug Cartels have swapped drug trafficking for people smuggling and this has led to a bunch of nefarious terrorist types gaining entrance to the United States, and chaos does ensue. The US Government’s response to all of this: fight chaos with even more ruthless terror and that’s where we arrive in Day of the Soldado. Sollima and writer Taylor Sheridan craft another twisting narrative that uses multiple story points to craft a story of an all the more dangerous and provocative mission.
Sollima made a name for himself with the critically revered Gomorrah crime television opus, and here he brings that same sense of documentary exploration to this film. The cinematography is intricate, and detailed and really puts you as an audience member right into the heart of the action. And whether it’s the intricate planning or the chime of hot lead leaving the gun barrels of fully automatic assault rifles when it all kicks off you feel every single moment of the film’s gun metal tension. Like it’s predecessor, Day of the Soldado is a nerve-racking watch, particularly in its brutal third act, and you’ll find yourself pinned to your seat as the film twists and turns and again goes into corners that you just can’t see coming.
Academy Award winner Benicio del Toro gives another thunderous performance as Alejandro, the lawyer turned assassin who has made it his life’s work to eradicate the Drug Cartels with total ‘extreme prejudice’. He again channels his man of few words, and explicit action perfectly, but the film’s set-up and the twists that exist allow us to see who this man is on a more personal level. While I will say that we do not witness Alejandro dropping his guard, we do get to see his more human side, or what little of it that still remains. It’s a performance that is again a testament to del Toro’s understanding and experience with the performers craft and he again totally delivers.
Standing next to Alejandro is his brother-in-arms CIA Special Activities Division officer Matt Graver played by the brilliant Josh Brolin who again gives an incredibly focused performance. As in the original Sicario, Brolin’s Graver is a man who ‘gets things done’ and who time and time again has proven that he is willing to not merely cross the line, but erase it entirely to ensure that his mission is completed. He is essentially ‘a rough man who is ready to do violence’ in order to secure the security of his nation and again orchestrates some pretty horrendous activities this time around. But being the master puppeteer that he is as Graver, Brolin also remembers to show off his playful side and there’s plenty of sly black humour that finds its way into his performance.
Both del Toro and Brolin complement each other perfectly and it’s a lot of fun to see them again working together as they decide to unleash a war down in Mexico. There’s a certain playfulness that you get to see working between the two of them and I was very impressed with how they traded off one another here.
Like it’s predecessor the details and realism are once again spot on here. As an example of Special Forces action Day of the Soldado lays everything out in the open and showcases the lethal perfection that these operators have in accomplishing there mission. Kitted out with the best tactical gear and comms imaginable Del Toro, Brolin and their team are an unstoppable force and they readily put the fear of god into the low-level Cartel hitmen that they have been assigned to eradicate. Sollima also examines the rise of the world of for profit military contractors, and how the United States mission as ‘the world’s policeman’ has lined a lot of pockets thanks to defense spending budgets.
In terms of following Sicario on a thematic level, Day of the Soldado takes the stage that where the first film was about the militarization of the police, here the idea of policing has been removed and we are now living in a pro military world where law and order are just words to ensure a mission gets the green light. It’s even more interesting given the film’s analysis of its pro-Republican based setting and how this current day feeling is affecting the war on drugs.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a successful follow on and worthy second chapter in what I hope will be an eventual Sicario trilogy. In terms of a cinematic experience it takes you to the very edge and leaves you gasping for breath as to what you just witnessed up on screen. What remains for the sicario himself, Alejandro, still remains to be seen but I’m certain that his war is not over and this devil still has names to collect.
Image: Roadshow Films