Sicario 2: Soldado, 2018.
Directed by Stefano Sollima.
Starring Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Catherine Keener, Isabela Moner, Elijah Rodriguez, and Matthew Modine.
The drug war on the U.S.-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.
When a sequel to Denis Villeneueve’s Sicario was announced I was excited to revisit the world created by writer Taylor Sheridan and brought to life by Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin. But I was concerned about how they were going to make this work considering what they had to live up to. It made completely sense to leave Blunt’s character Kate Macer out of the second film as her story was pretty much wrapped up, but in losing her perspective, Soldado is missing any sense of mystery or intrigue.
This time around, the Americans are concerned about the cartels collaborating with ISIS and using the Mexico/Texas border to enter the US. Matt Graver (Brolin) is given carte blanche to start a war with the cartels using hitman Alejandro (Del Toro) and “letting him off the leash”. On paper Soldado should work. Taylor Sheridan has written some of the best films of the last decade and although Villeneuve chose not to return, Stefano Sollima is a solid director and Brolin and Del Toro’s characters were the most intriguing from the first film; so why did it fall flat?
One of the biggest gripes is plot. Whilst Soldado is supposed to be a standalone film, you can’t help but compare it to the first instalment. Whilst the first film had a clear plot and tension, Soldado labours between the various different plot points and seems to lurch between the different characters without much coherence. The story itself felt convoluted at times and there was no point where there was any build of up threat. The issues that Soldado raises about borders, victimising Muslims feels more topical than ever in the Trump era, but these issues alone don’t make a compelling film. It feels that Sheridan had a point to make, but that it has been poorly executed.
What does work about Soldado is Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro. Just a shadowy figure in Sicario, we do learn so much more about him in this second outing. A quiet scene between Alejandro and a local farmer is played out entirely in sign language and it’s the best scene of the film. It’s intimate and has purpose. There is some great action and Del Toro’s enigmatic performance is the glue holding Soldado together. Every time he appeared on-screen, I found myself sitting a little straighter and becoming invested.
Josh Brolin also adds to his impressive 2018 resume with his performance as agent Matt Graver. Morally ambiguous in Sicario, in Soldado we see hints of humanity attempting to break through as his plan begins to unravel. A decision at the end of the film does change how you feel about his character, but I’m not sure if this is for better or worse. Nevertheless, Brolin does well with the material and has a simultaneously menacing and calming presence when he appears on-screen.
If the final film in the proposed trilogy is made, I am curious to see where we find Alejandro next; I only hope that it is executed better. Soldado is one of those films that I wanted to like so badly, but there are too many flaws in plot, pacing and style to overcome and it pales in comparison to its predecessor.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★