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“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” is an unlikely yet winning sequel

We certainly didn’t need a sequel to Sicario. That top notch procedural worked quite well as a stand alone movie. Luckily, despite Sicario: Day of the Soldado being unnecessary, it’s also way better than it has any right to be. Opening this week, the film isn’t the shot of near brilliance that the first one was, but it definitely works. Having screenwriter Taylor Sheridan return to pen this sequel is a big shot in the arm, as the flick doesn’t have star Emily Blunt, cinematographer Roger Deakins, composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, and director Denis Villeneuve back for more. That below the line touch is missing, but this is still a movie that entertains while making you think.

The film is, obviously, a sequel to Sicario. The IMDb plot synopsis is as follows: “The drug war on the US-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.” Matt (Josh Brolin) is seen investigating an act of terrorism, before being recruited by the Secretary of Defense James Riley (Matthew Modine) to turn the cartels against each other. To help doing that, he’s assigned a handler in Cynthia Foards (Catherine Keener) and brings back his partner of sorts Steve Forsing (Jeffrey Donovan). However, he needs more. Namely, attorney Alejandro (Beneicio del Toro), who has long been his secret weapon. As they work the problem, the kidnapping of a drug kingpin’s daughter (Isabela Moner) complicates things. Sheridan wrote this next chapter, though stepping in to direct instead of Villeneuve is Stefano Sollima. Supporting players include Bruno Bichir, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Elijah Rodriguez, Shea Whigham, and more. Dariusz Wolski is behind the camera instead of the now Oscar winner Deakins, while taking over for the late Jóhannsson is Hildur Guðnadóttir, who long collaborated with the dearly departed composer.

This flick is a step down from the first one, but still more than just a generic action movie. We miss the look of Deakins’ cinematography, obviously mixed with Villeneuve’s directorial prowess. Likewise, Blunt’s audience surrogate is missed. At the same though, Wolski is a solid DP, while Guðnadóttir creates a very strong facsimile of Jóhannsson’s sound. Sollima is more than just a workmanlike director, keeping a similar style to Sicario on hand here. Also, giving Brolin and Del Toro more shades to their characters is a strong idea. They all keep this from being a failure. Mainly though, it’s another smart and visceral screenplay from Sheridan that winds up being why this succeeds.

If there’s a third installment, the film could wrap up the story in a potentially interesting way. The characters are all far from black and white personalities, so more with them would be compelling to see. Of course, that would rely on Sheridan returning once again. The slight downgrades behind the scenes and absence of Blunt in the lead can be overcome if the core is the same. That means Sheridan, plain and simple. He’s clearly now become the foundation upon which this franchise is based. It may not be a script that matches the brilliance of Hell or High Water, but it’s still very good stuff.

On Friday, audiences who loved the first one can get another dose of border wars when Sicario: Day of the Soldado opens in cinemas. While the original was a mix of art film and prestige action flick, this one moves more towards the latter. It’s still a smart movie with something to say, but the violence has slightly less of a point this time. Still, it’s a satisfying experience, especially if we’re going to keep following some of these characters in the future. If there’s another sequel in a few years, I’d see it. Give this one a shot and see what you think…

Be sure to check out Sicario: Day of the Soldado, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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