BEIRUT: SICARIO, directed by the great Dennis Villeneuve, took audiences into a new form of thriller – where the thrill wasn’t in the massive overly saturated with computer-generated images, but rather in the slow burn of conflict, drama, and the rawness of life.
Now three years later, with SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO, the series begins a new chapter, where rules are things of the past.
The sequel, though where the narrative lies in the timeline in relation to the first film is yet to be determined, is an intense and relevant action-thriller propelled by two antihero protagonists, who venture deep into the merciless border world of drug dealing and American foreign policy.
Due to the changing landscape in America as far as the legalization of certain drugs, and an infusion of prescription drugs becoming recreational drugs of choice, the cartels were left looking for a new product to sell.
Where the conflict in the first was regarding the war on drugs in the United States of America, now the tale tackles the trafficking of people across the border – the dark and heartbreaking consequence of the war on drugs.
The sequel is helmed by Italian director Stefano Sollima, who is most known for his work in popular television series GOMORRAH and ROMANZO CRIMINALE, as well as the critically acclaimed film SUBURRA.
Sollima’s work all dealt with the criminal underworld and its conflict with the law and the police, so it is only natural that he is able to deliver in his vision for the second chapter in the world created by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Taylor Sheridan.
In conjunction with Sheridan’s powerful idea, which reflects our current world and the volatile nature of the drug trade, Sollima is able to create a piece of entertainment that also deals with the grey areas of law and order in a really intelligent way.
The beauty of this sequel is that it offers the audience a new journey for the protagonist of the series, Alejandro, played spot-on by Benicio del Torro.
No part of the film feels like a rehash of anything that occurred in the first film, but rather, it feels like a deeper dive into who those characters really are, their past, their scars, what they stand for, and where they might go.
By the end of the film, they end up having to face the consequences of their staged war, and struggle to create chaos in order to ultimately have justice and control.
This is where the narrative genuinely engages its audience, even though it is a narrative that takes it time to unravel and bring the story to a shocking close.
SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO doesn’t glorify violence, and neither does it trivialize what people have to deal with in such situations.
Sollima is unflinching and isn’t afraid to show some of the shocking things that take place, nevertheless, he doesn’t use his camera or vision in any way to enhance these moments in order to protect Sheridan’s world and narrative.
The entire cast, from largest role to smallest role, is fantastic to watch, but Josh Brolin and Benicio del Torro are masters of the craft.
You can feel the actors were fully invested in the moment, which helps dramatize the tough issues in the story.
With director of photography Dariusz Wolski by his side, Sollima is able to place his characters into big conflicts in the environment, in the desert, and in the border crossings.
The film’s use of wide shots and close-ups, among other breathtaking camera work, all serves the narrative.
With the slow pacing of the film and the duration of every shot, Sollima forces the audience to stay with the characters, so they don’t lose them even in the film’s larger and more gripping sequences.
With the passing of Johann Johannsson, who composed the score for SICARIO, Hildur Guđnadóttir, Johannsson’s protégé and collaborative partner, now steps into her late master’s place as composer.
Guđnadóttir manipulates sound in order to capture the film’s emotional core and brings some connection to the previous tonality, which aids the audience to stay in the same world; but at the same time, there is something completely different, rawer, and gut-wrenching.
The most beautiful thing about this film, something that will probably go unnoticed, is the fact that everything the audience sees on the screen is practical effects; meaning, not computer generated.
In a time when most films are flashy, over-statured, bright, CGI-fests, SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO is a breath of fresh, real air.
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