Benecio Del Toro Josh Brolin Isabela Moner Jeffrey Donovan Catherine Keener
Elijah Rodriguez Manuel Garcia Matthew Modine Bruno Bichir
Taylor Sheridan is a writer whose fascination with the western ethos has prompted him to write screenplays highlighting the cultural (and cross-cultural) tugs and binds for people living in the spirit of the American West (Sicario, Hell or High Water, Wind River). And now comes Sicario: Day of the Soldado, where he picks up on the Mexican-American border and cartel issues seen in the first Sicario. Our familiar protagonists, Alejandro (Del Toro) and Matt Graver (Brolin) are charged with pitting two Mexican cartels against each other to stem the tide of human trafficking to the U.S., which has now become the most valuable commodity for them.
The immediate plan is to kidnap the daughter of the Reyes cartel “king”, Isabel (Moner), and use her as leverage with the Matamoros cartel. Things don’t go as planned, of course, and when Isabel escapes amidst gunfire and strikes out on her own, Alejandro goes after her, telling Matt to meet him at the border. It will not be an easy task. In the interim will be an encounter with a deaf-mute (fortunately, Alejandro knows sign language), identification of Alejandro and his charge by a sharp young trafficker at the border (Rodriguez), and no communication with the American agents.
The film purposefully leaves us hanging in its last scenes, and sets us up for the inevitable sequel, which we all get tired of, but which will nevertheless be foisted upon us anyway. Word on the street is that Emily Blunt will be featured in the third edition, but I hope that Sheridan will figure out how to write a role for her that will show strength and resourcefulness without the stereotypical “female” characteristics, which he seems to be stuck on.
One of the things that bothered me most in this film was to see Isabel portrayed in the beginning as a bully-female, beating up a fellow student and showing a narcissistic kind of entitlement when confronted by her school principal. This scene kept me from sympathizing with her when she got kidnapped. Yes, a privileged child might behave that way, but how much more inspiring and creative it would be to show her evolving as experience and time transpire. The film shows a bit of this when she takes up for her captor at one point, but in this case, like with many of Sheridan’s female characters, it’s not a full-blown effect. It would have been better to give her more charisma and feistiness, making her someone the audience could delight in.
Another underwritten character is Cynthia Foards (Keener), the supervisor of Graver. She seems to follow her upper-level consultants mindlessly, without any creativity or assertiveness.
Del Toro and Brolin play their roles as written with expert finesse, being the talented actors they are, but Del Toro can show much more frightening intimidation in his character and Brolin much more calculating bravado than they are given a chance to show here.
This is a good film, but seems to be another one in which the filmmakers are so focused on sequels they slight the film they are making.
Border patrol intrigue with twists.