The definition of the word Sicario is a hired gunman or assassin, esp. in Latin America. The film ‘Sicario,’ starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro was an incredibly powerful and violent film that took audiences by surprise. Director Denis Villeneuve, who went on to direct ‘Arrival’ and ‘Blade Runner: 2049’ didn’t direct ‘Sicario: Day of the Solado,’ which may be surprising to learn when you consider the fact that it was nominated for three Oscars. That said, it was instead directed by Stefano Sollima, who very much did carry on the dark brutality that both stories, written by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote ‘Wind River’ and ‘Hell or High Water,’ required. Not pulling punches, Sollima moves the second tale of the franchise, not quite a sequel but more of an offshoot, at an electric pace.
The film starts by showing a group of individuals being smuggled over the U.S. border from Mexico. This has turned into a substantial for-profit business for the Mexican Cartel as many of them are terrorists willing to pay big dollars. Rather than be caught, these men are prepared to and do blow themselves up if cornered. Pivotal to what’s going on in American politics today, several do the deed in a store. The last one alive is about to take his life for the cause and consequently end the lives of everyone around him, is confronted by a white woman as she begs for him to spare her and her child… thus the theme of the narrative materializes. The comparisons to today can’t be ignored.
The U.S. Secretary of Defense (Modine) hires government agent Matt Graver (Brolin) to help them seal Mexico off and make it appear as necessary to do so as possible. They want to stop the Mexican cartels once and for all. As unscrupulous and underhanded as he is, he suggests getting dirty and to make it appear as if one of the other cartels initiates the fight by attacking the other. He tells them they’re going to have to ‘kidnap a prince’ and explains that the king will start the war for you. He hires the unforgiving Alejandro (Del Toro) to help him kidnap rich, spoiled Isabela Reyes (Moner) the teenage daughter of the notorious cartel leader, Carlos Reyes. They stage everything to look like a rival gang of her fathers has her by allowing her to see pertinent information so she can relay it all back to her father. After, they set in motion a rescue. However, nothing ever goes as planned.
Day of the Solado, a word that means soldier, explores what it means to be a soldier, which is an enforcer of the rules he’s lead by, and what it means to be a man with a conscience. When Alejandro finds himself having to choose between the two, a second story emerges and helps rounds out the reasons for shootouts and the action and criminal element of the film and the more political motivation of the script.
Isabela Reyes is a character you’ll grow to abhor less as the movie winds down. Isabela Moner is an actress you’ll grow to adore as she does a fantastic job giving you what her director asks of her, but the script could have been a little more pointed as to what is expected from its audience. In fact, all the characters were hard for you to read, except for one and that’s Cynthia Foards. Played by Catherine Keener, Foards is a badass who isn’t in touch with her feelings and doesn’t care about yours, especially when it comes time to order a scene to be cleaned.
Even though it’s nothing like ‘Sicario,’ the acting in ‘Sicario: Day of the Solado’ is reason enough to see the second chapter. Oddly, it doesn’t necessarily matter which order you see them in but if you’re a fan of the genre, see them both. Also, you might be happy to learn there is a plan for number three. How it’s presented in the film will definitely leave you scratching your head… but in a good way, I promise.