No Emily Blunt, no Denis Villeneuve, and no Roger Deakins. These three names are the reasons to what made the first Sicario film memorable so you can imagine my hesitance to watch Day of the Soldado knowing that the talent I most remember has no ties with this film. Nevertheless, as soon as the lights went down I was waiting in anticipation for the uneasy tension that was masterfully executed in the first Sicario. Luckily my prayers were answered as the film wastes no time to get the audience gripped to the brutality of the scenes. The film then moves on and the story plays its part, but whilst watching Day of the Soldado, there was something missing. The film never wowed me enough and I think that comes down to a loss in filmmaking pedigree.
Some of the pedigree remains in the form of Josh Brolin (Matt) and Benicio Del Toro (Alejandro), it’s great to see their characters being pushed into the spotlight and they both make good use of it. Brolin has always had a battle-hardened intensity and Del Toro has a perfect talent for portraying a character who is by no means a good guy, but he has a moral compass. Having these two actors in the same film just gives the tension more of a kick.
Taylor Sheridan who wrote the first Sicario also returns to write Day of the Soldado and I would argue that he has one-upped himself through a genius way of turning a story that has been excavated multiple times and turn it into something that feels like it is being discovered for the first time. The marketing for this film would have you believe that this is a story about stopping the Mexican cartels from crossing terrorists through the border, but you start to notice that this is only to set the scene and that the film actually spends a lot of time on two children Isabella (Isabella Moner), the daughter of a powerful cartel leader, and Miguel (Elijah Rodriguez) a Mexican-American boy roped into joining a Mexican gang helping border crossings.
This is the genius in Day of the Soldado’s writing, it sends a message about the role of children in a long, ongoing struggle and sends it through the brutal style of a Sicario film. It is a message that rings strongly for anyone seeing this film because the acts that Miguel has to do and the things that Isabella sees would be scarring for anyone. The strongest scenes that transmit this message are ones with Isabella and Alejandro, this is where the moral compass aspect of Alejandro’s character starts to play out as he undergoes a reminder of his past that changes how he sees this girl. Little touches like this remind us of how well written the character is.
Those familiar with Sicario will understand that Day of the Soldado is not your typical action film. While you can expect the odd gunfight here and there, these scenes are very quick with no over the top grand payoff like a fireball explosion as we have come to expect with our run of the mill action films. Some may argue that the scenes in Day of the Soldado stretch the definition of an action scene, but action scenes to me can be heavily made up with the glitz and glamour of a good special effect or sound, but they must ultimately have some sort of accomplishment as well as caring for the protagonist(s) involved. Day of the Soldado, in this case, ticks all boxes.
Now, this may be a worthy successor and it has proven me wrong that a sequel was needed, but I would still argue that without Villeneuve, Deakins, and Blunt, it just doesn’t feel the same. It has lost the flair of creative mastery, a perfect example of this is comparing the cinematography of Roger Deakins to the cinematography of Dariusz Wolski (cinematographer for Day of the Soldado). I won’t deny that Wolski is an intense cinematographer, the way he can stylize tension is great. Deakins, on the other hand, can make the most common of scenes immensely satisfying through careful consideration into every element at a cinematographer’s disposal. Deakins can also consider the character’s perspective, as well as the audiences, and I couldn’t feel like that specific consideration in Wolski’s cinematography.
I would argue if Deakins and Villeneuve did come back to make Day of the Soldado, this would have propelled the film from being a good sequel to a masterful sequel. With that being said, director Stefano Sollima settled my worries aside, I had a bad feeling walking into this film but now I am at ease because Day of the Soldado in many ways has made stronger what was already strong, the buried layers in the story, the three-dimensional characters, and most importantly, it was intense.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Sicario: Day of the Soldado? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below
Next Time: The First Purge