Sicario came out in 2015, and blasted a whole bunch of creatives into the stratosphere. It’s still one of my favourite movies of the last few years, brought to you by my absolute favourite working director today: Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049). The late, great Jóhan Jóhannsson’s (The Theory of Everything, Arrival), who had collaborated with Villeneuve on Prisoners, wrote a score that is comparable to maybe Jaws, and that’s about it. Not to mention Prisoners’ other creative collaborator, Roger Deakins, who earned his 13th Oscar nomination as director of photography with Sicario (who’s previous nominations include work like The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Skyfall). That doesn’t even touch on this being Taylor Sheridan’s first produced screenplay, who has since gone on to write and win an Oscar for Hell or High Water, as well as direct the also tragically underrated Wind River. Sicario is that movie that you might have missed – but desperately, defiantly, and undeniably, requires your viewing. It’s still one of the best creative teams of the last few years, but perhaps because it didn’t get Oscar nominated in any of the big six categories (Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, and Best Picture), I would argue it’s been unfairly overlooked. To be honest, Sicario not being nominated for Best Picture is a travesty in and of itself, in a year with only eight of the ten spots filled, where Bridge of Spies was up there? Pffft, I’m sorry. That’s ridiculous.
That said, I’m praising, voluminously, the first film, when this review is supposed to be about Sicario: Day of the Soldado, which comes out today. Unfortunately, the first film is so damn good, and so overlooked, and has such a powerhouse creative team behind it, that the second just won’t – can’t quite –simply doesn’t – live up to the first. It’s not a bad movie, by any means. It’s still deserving of a fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s still worth your time if you enjoyed the first one, and it’s not frustrating in the same way I was frustrated by Deadpool 2, but alas, it’s also not as brilliantly executed as Incredibles 2.
You’ll notice that in my lengthy opening paragraph gushing about 2015’s Sicario, I didn’t touch on the cast, who were all brilliant as anyone would expect them to be. Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place, The Devil Wears Prada) headlined that film, alongside Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, Traffic) and Josh Brolin (Deadpool 2, No Country for Old Men). Blunt was somewhat of an emotional and moral anchor of that film, as well as being the eyes of the audience, slowly descending into the dark, complex, morally ambiguous world that Sheridan had brought forth. Blunt does not return for Sicario: Day of the Soldado, which is fine, because her character’s arc really is done with, and I’m glad they didn’t bring her back. Brolin and Del Toro carry this film exceptionally well on their own, but newcomer to the Sicario franchise: Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Night), who’s also been cast as Dora in the live-action Dora the Explorer, fits right in. She’s amazing, and someone you can expect to be seeing a whole lot more from in the near future. The cast in this film is great, much like they were in the first Sicario, but they’re really the only creative component that didn’t let me down in this sequel.
Hildur Guðnadóttir, who had worked under Jóhannsson in his music department on Arrival, Sicario, and Prisoners scored this film, and in my opinion the score is just as riveting, harkening back to Jóhannsson’s work in the first. Dariusz Wolski (The Martian, Prometheus) on the other hand, shot this film, and it’s not bad. It’s actually quite good, but it just isn’t Roger Deakins. We don’t get the same embrace of the harsh, bright sunlight, nor the exploration of darkness and shadow in as intriguing and ingenious ways. We don’t get as many expansive, luxurious shots of the landscape, highlighting the vast, openness and absurdity of that tiny, artificial border that holds so much weight in our built world.
My gripes with Sicario: Day of the Soldado, actually come with the direction and the script. Where the first Sicariowas super-duper tight, there was no fat to skin off that film whatsoever, Soldado flits between two story lines rather unsuccessfully. I understood the necessity to show someone young and vulnerable falling into this world, but I found myself craving more Del Toro and Brolin on my screen. Which is interesting, since Taylor Sheridan was the only returning creative I’ve mentioned to this film. That’s also a pacing issue though, where you can really tell that Villenueve didn’t direct this film, Stefano Sollima (Suburra, A.C.A.B.) did, and again, it’s not bad, it just doesn’t guide you with the same intoxicating pace and through line the first did.
It might be unfair to compare a film to its predecessor, but at the same time, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is an adequate sequel, to an underrated masterpiece. My greatest hope with this film, is that it’ll make more people go back and watch the first Sicario. If you haven’t seen it yet, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. If you have, go watch it again. Then go watch the Blu-ray special features. Then watch it again. Then tell everyone you know about it. We’ll see how Ant-Man and The Wasp lives up to the first Ant-Man movie next week, then I believe that’ll round out my most anticipated sequels after Sicario, Deadpool and Incredibles for 2018. Phew, that’s a lot of sequels in a short few months!
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is in cinemas now, and as far as sequels to great movies go, if you enjoyed the first one, this is decent. But I’d still recommend going back and re-watching the first if you haven’t seen it in a hot minute.
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