Sicario: Day of the Soldado

The sequel to the critically acclaimed 2015 movie Sicario directed by Oscar nominee Denis Villeneuve, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a compelling action thriller with great cinematography, music, and acting performances that all combine to create an especially gritty atmosphere conducive to the dark world of the increasingly violent drug war. After a stint in Africa and the Middle East hunting down terrorists, the covert American government operative Matt Graver, played by Oscar nominee Josh Brolin, returns to the US Mexico border to reprise his vicious role as in the first movie to do whatever it takes to take down the powerful Mexican drug cartels. He is recruited by the Secretary of Defense, played by Golden Globe nominee Matthew Modine, and another government official, played by Oscar nominee Catherine Keener, to foment a war between several Mexican cartels by kidnapping the 16-year-old daughter of a particularly influential cartel leader. The ruthless Graver, who is authorized to employ his dirty tactics, assembles a secret contingent of soldiers that also includes the amoral sicario, or hit man, Alejandro who is played by the brilliantly creepy Oscar winner Benicio del Toro. After several intense and warlike gun battles, the covert American forces and loyal members of the drug cartels who also work for the Mexican police, things begin to go awry and Graver’s mission is put into jeopardy by the high-ranking United States officials who authorized the operation. The movie also weaves in another narrative about a Mexican-American teenager living in the border town of McAllen, Texas who is lured by the drug cartels to help smuggle migrants across the border. His story provides insight into why and how young men become involved in drug and human trafficking for such ruthlessly violent cartels and gangs. The most intriguing scenes involve Alejandro who lost his family at the hands of a drug cartel and is now set on a path of brutal vengeance; he is a morally complicated character brought to life by Benicio del Toro’s performance who wants to bring good but does it through clearly bad means. Overall, I found it to be yet another gripping account of the horrific actions of the drug cartels and the secret war against them perpetrated by the American government; however, the movie fell short of the original’s innovative twist on the action thriller genre that explores a complicated subject in a thoughtful way.

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