By Bradley Griffith
The original “Sicario” may not have been a huge hit like the original “Jurassic World,” but it was a great movie. It boasted a star-studded cast of Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro, along with a great story and great drama. Brolin, Del Toro, and the great story return for a second adventure in “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” now in theaters.
A series of horrific suicide bombs are detonated in a grocery store in Kansas City. Fifteen people die in the massacre, including two young children. The FBI links at least one of the bombers to a Mexican drug cartel who illegally transported the bomber across the U.S.-Mexico border.
The response of the U.S. government is to deem the drug cartels terrorist organizations. That means that the full weight of the United States military can be brought to bear on the cartels. But the military needs a way to get the war started, they need a man who can work behind the scenes in covert action to support any overt action taken by the military. The Pentagon needs someone who can rattle the cages of the cartels. The Secretary of Defense turns to Matt Graver (Josh Brolin).
Graver is a CIA operative who is known as a guy who gets things done, a guy who you keep on a tight leash or he will go too far. This time the government is turning Graver loose with no leash. He is free to do whatever he deems necessary to destroy the cartels. No rules.
Graver decides that the best way to inflict real damage on the cartels is to cause a war between the cartels. Graver knows exactly who he needs for a mission inside Mexico with no rules. Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) was Graver’s secret weapon in the original story. This time Alejandro will take the lead in causing a major war between cartels.
If you are a fan of the first movie, you will like “Day of the Soldado.” Two of the major actors return (though the absence of Emily’s Blunt’s character was a disappointment) for another battle against the Mexican drug cartels, only this time the cuffs are off. Graver and Alejandro are the perfect men for such a mission.
Brolin and Del Toro once again deliver consummate performances in their roles, but it’s a different role that I believe was the most important in making “Day of the Soldado” a quality movie. Taylor Sheridan returned as the writer of “Day of the Soldado.” Sheridan is one of the top young writers in Hollywood with movies such as “Wind River,” “Hell or High Water,” and “Sicario” and new TV show “Yellowstone” under his belt. He creates drama and tension with his writing that is almost unique in modern-day filmmaking. Sign me up for anything that involves Taylor Sheridan.
“Day of the Soldado,” like its predecessor, is not an action movie. For sure, there are sporadic action scenes throughout the movie, and when these scenes come they are fast and furious. But “Day of the Soldado” is more of a slow-burn drama than anything else. The story builds on itself little by little and ratchets up the tension with each successive scene. Some may say the pace was slow, but I thought it was intense.
Josh Brolin is becoming a true superstar. His movies released this year alone include “Avengers: Infinity War” (where he played Thanos), “Deadpool 2,” and “Day of the Soldado.” He was also excellent in one of my favorite movies, “No Country for Old Men.” But it seems that at age 50 he is hitting his stride and Hollywood recognizes the emergence of a superstar when it sees one.
Likewise, it also appears that Benicio Del Toro is in a groove of his own actor. Del Toro was in one of my favorite movies, “The Usual Suspects,” but at age 51 he was also in “Avengers: Infinity War” and was previously in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” These two actors seem to get better as they get older.
“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” is not as good as the first movie, but sequels rarely are. Still, “Day of the Soldado” is an excellent adult movie of the type that would normally be released in the fall.
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Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, and language.