A Brief History
On June 28, 2018, we review the second Sicario movie starring Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, which premiers across the United States on June 29, 2018. The first thing we want to say is that it is not necessary to see the first film, Sicario (2015) with the same stars (plus Emily Blunt) to completely enjoy Soldado. The new movie easily stands on its own, although we did love the first one and recommend it highly. The films cover the violent and depressing situation of brutal Mexican drug cartels and the American efforts to deal with the criminals, including those within the Mexican government as people and drugs are smuggled across the Southern border of the United States.
From our first paragraph, you may wonder if the movie puts border security and Mexico in general in a bad light. It does. A bleak picture of corruption and lawlessness is painted for the movie audience, and while they are at it, Muslims sneaking across the border to commit acts of terrorism in the United States set the premise for the film. The main plot line is that the President deems Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations presenting a threat to the safety of American citizens by smuggling terrorists across the border. Supporters of President Donald Trump will find this premise entirely palatable and justifying his obsession with border security. Some may find the depiction of Mexicans as corrupt criminals with no human compassion as documentary “proof” of that description, while more liberal movie goers may be offended by negative depiction of Mexicans and Muslims. Soldado also portrays the American government as ruthless and with little moral compass, so the result is kind of depressing. On the other hand, pistols, rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, explosions and helicopters make for an exciting and visually stunning film. Did we mention knives? Bladed weapons are also in the action somewhere.
All that being said, Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro reprise their roles as drug fighters from the first movie, both giving fantastically believable performances. In fact, we thought this second Sicario movie was even more realistic than the first film, though some critics have missed the Emily Blunt FBI agent character. Brolin plays a cynical and highly skilled veteran CIA agent, capable of the most ruthless methods, while Del Toro plays a Mexican that lost his family to the murderous drug cartel. In a White House directed plot to attack the drug cartels, using anti-terrorism as justification, Brolin hatches a plan to set rival drug cartels against each other in an attempt to instigate a drug war. The means by which such a war will be ignited is the kidnapping of the 16 year old daughter of a cartel king pin. Then things go wrong! (No spoilers here.)
The mess created by the complications of the kidnapping and subsequent operations are exacerbated by Mexican corruption and the gutless failure of American politicians to see the operation through to its intended conclusion. Lots of violence, lots of action, great special effects and great acting make the movie a success. The original film garnered over 90% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, while this sequel only mustered a 71% approval rating, good enough, but not as good as the original. We find this discrepancy odd because we think the second movie is better than the first (which is pretty good anyway). Our guess is that the negative depiction of Mexicans and Muslims turns off some of the more sensitive movie goers, but seriously, the real life drug cartels are incredibly brutal and violent, murderous psychopaths of the first order, so how is that depiction wrong? Is the Mexican government and law enforcement agencies in Mexico corrupt, often on the payroll of drug cartels? Yes! That is a sad fact of life. Are radical Muslim terrorists ruthless and cruel killers? Well, they are in real life, so the movie is not misrepresenting that, either. (The film does nothing to portray other, normal, Muslim people as terrorists or otherwise bad people.)
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a fast paced movie that flies through its 2 hour running time. Lots of action, graphic violence, excellent cinematography and great acting by stars Brolin and Del Toro, as well as Isabela Moner as the drug magnate’s daughter. Plenty of tension throughout the film does not give the audience a chance to relax. Despite the Tommy Lee Jones type of wisecracking character played by Brolin, there is no departure into comedy from the serious tone of the film. Soldado will grip your attention and not let go until the very end, leaving you to question what the drug war is and what can we really do about it. Rated “R” for lots of violence, we recommend young children or those particularly sensitive tweens be left home. Otherwise, we loved the movie (as we did the first Sicario) and highly recommend it for fans of action films.
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For more information, please see…
Andreas, Peter. Border Games: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide (Cornell Studies in Political Economy). Cornell University Press, 2009.
Watt and Zepeda. Drug War Mexico: Politics, Neoliberalism and Violence in the New Narcoeconomy. Zed Books, 2012.