Director: Stefano Sollima
Starring: Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Catherine Kenner, Jeffrey Donovan, Matthew Modine, Elijah Rodriguez

The 2015 film Sicario cemented screenwriter Taylor Sheridan as someone to watch out for. He went on to write Hell or High Water and last year’s Wind River, and has now continued to expand the story he started with Sicario. You wouldn’t expect a traditional sequel from it given its heavy look into the drug smuggling epidemic across our borders. In Sicario: Day of the Soldado, tensions continue to mount at the U.S. Mexico border as the Mexican drug cartels are now involved with human trafficking going into the U.S. Big money can be made by the runners of these cartels to get people across whether it’s by bus, van, or sneaking through a river. Josh Brolin returns as government agent Matt Graver who’s sent in by the CIA to interrogate a suspect after a grocery store bombing in Kansas City. He’s a no-holds-barred kind of guy who will stop at nothing to bring down a terrorist. The bombing is traced back to a cartel led by kingpin Carlos Reyes. The President wants to declare these cartels as terrorists, so Graver sets a plan in place to kidnap Reyes’ daughter and frame another cartel for the kidnapping in order to start a war between rival cartels. In order to pull this off, he propositions former operative Alejandro Gillick (del Toro) to join the mission as an act of revenge for Gillick after Reyes killed his family. The kidnapping goes astray when Mexican police intercepts them, and Gillick’s loyalty to the girl versus the mission changes as his paternal instincts kick in.

Sicario was a force of nature when it came out with its precise direction by Denis Villeneuve and star Emily Blunt. Neither could return for this film, and the same goes for composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. There’s a nice dedication during the closing credits to Jóhannsson who recently passed away. Taylor Sheridan has come up with an equally compelling story to expand on its themes. As the U.S. deals with immigration issues under President Trump’s zero tolerance policy, this film feels all too timely with its release making you realize there was a reason why Sheridan decided to continue on with these characters. Italian director Stefano Sollima has taken over the helm, and gives Day of the Soldado a pulsating fervor to it from the very first scene.

There’s a lot going on to the story as we see how these cartels and human trafficking affect two different generations. It’s pretty standard in these films to have someone like Josh Brolin’s character who is determined to finish the job he was assigned no matter the cost to the President, the CIA, or others involved. He’ll do things the way he thinks they should be done. Brolin continues his extra busy summer following Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2. He’s the most straightforward character, which pairs well in playing the opposite of what we get from Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro. Del Toro is completely captivating to watch in that he’s the kind of “silent” actor that never fully lets on what his character’s thinking or doing at any given moment. With his character’s shift from hired assassin to protector, del Toro really brings out the personal side to this movie elevating this story behind your standard action thriller.

This story, much like real life, becomes all the more complicated when minors are involved as we see with the relationship Alejandro builds with the young girl played by Isabela Moner. Moner’s a dynamite young actress bringing more depth than you’d expect to a drug lord’s daughter. She puts on a tough face building up a hardened exterior, but deep down she reminds you she was born into her father’s lifestyle and is now used as a pawn. Another side plot involves a young Mexican man who’s slowly making his way into a trafficking ring due to the money he can make from it. His rise to becoming a sicario (Spanish for hitman) offers that directional opposition compared to Alejandro.

Sheridan tackles quite a bit in his script in order to showcase the complexities at hand with how we deal with the border crisis. Sicario: Day of the Soldado isn’t the kind of movie you go into to be entertained. It’s that lens into what’s going on behind the scenes of the immigration debate. It’s not as simple as some people make it out to be. The stakes are always high where any wrong move by Brolin or del Toro’s characters has drastic consequences on the young girl and the relationship between Mexican and American governments. I hope this gets people talking about the very topical issues happening in America and to look at them through a variety of angles.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Only if you don’t mind its violent, gritty, and timely nature.


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