Sicario: Day of the Soldado finds ample and interesting reason enough for a second invasion over the border but proves that not every film needs a sequel. While a solid entry and it's great to see Brolin and Del Toro side by side again outside of a Marvel flick, its tight premise is stretched thin in an effort to build a franchise foundation for further adventures. Well worth watching, but not on the same level as Sicario. Sony Pictures brings Sicario: Day of the Soldado to Blu-ray in good form with a worthy 1080p transfer and a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix to match. Bonus features are unfortunately a bit slim while being somewhat informative. Fans of the first will want to give this one a go while newcomers really should start at the beginning. Recommended. (We also reviewed this film on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.)
"…lets talk about your future."
The war on terror has opened a new front. Mexican drug cartels are offering Isis terrorists safe passage into the United States. With the cartels now designated as terrorist organizations, the President and his Secretary of Defense (Matthew Modine) need someone who knows how to fight dirty. Enter Matt Graves (Josh Brolin). As a man who has done his fair share of dirty work, he's the perfect man to turn the cartels against each other and start a war. Bringing in his right-hand assassin Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), they light the spark that will ignite a powder keg. But after the kidnapping of a cartel boss' daughter (Isabela Moner) goes sideways, the allegiance between Alejandro and Graves will be stressed to the breaking point.
Let me preface this review by stating Sicario for me was a five outta five flick. A thinking man's action movie, it brought the bullets and bloodshed while also providing strong characters with complex motivations. It took you on a journey into a world you likely don't know or are a part of while raising palette ideas for you to brood over as the credits begin to roll. In a lot of ways, it left me feeling like I did when I came out of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. It was a smart action film with colorful characters that I wouldn't mind seeing in another adventure, I didn't need to. I would keep coming back to for repeat viewings for years to come regardless if I felt the story was complete or not.
Sicario: Day of Soldado is at equal times the sequel we want to see but ultimately the one we don't need. Taylor Sheridan returned for writing duties with Stefano Sollima stepping into the director's chair. While it teases a larger world of counter-terrorism and the murky side of the global efforts to keep the U.S. border secure, the film also falls back on characters and scenarios we either already saw before or just wasn't worth exploring. As much as I love Del Toro and he delivers a strong performance here, his mysterious Alejandro wasn't necessary for this go around. Without giving anything away of the first Sicario, it felt like his story was complete in those ambiguous closing moments. His character had run his arc. Here, Alejandro feels more perfunctory. He was in the first so he was more or less shoehorned into the second because he was the signature badass last time. While it was nice to see him again and he's adept at distributing painful bullet-driven revenge, I felt like many of his scenes could have easily been applied to Brolin's Graves and it would have carved out a chunk of clunky material involving a wanna-be gangster in the last half leaving it a leaner more impactful final product.
But that's just one of many possible fan-fixes that could have aided the clunky second half. In truth, the first half of Soldado works quite well. There's a great setup of the scenario, a terrific reintroduction of old characters and the addition of new major players who weren't seen in the first round but were probably hovering on the sidelines somewhere. I don't know if it was because of some of the rumored last-minute rewrites or if this was always in there, but the last half feels rushed and under-developed with a number of shoveled-in plot beats and threads that couldn't be adequately explored within a two-hour runtime. As our own Michael Palmer said about Sicario, Soldado also feels like the makings of a mini-series event that got cut down into a feature run when it needed a bit more room to breathe. I ultimately like where this film goes as I dig that final shot and what it implies, but there is a very rough patch of about 40 minutes to get you there.
Maybe it was high expectations or the simple fact that Sicario never really needed a sequel, but I came away from Day of Soldado a bit underwhelmed. At the end of the day, I do like the flick quite a bit. I do want to see more - especially after where they end things here - but I don't love this one nearly as much as the first Sicario. It's an average sequel; decent enough with an abundance of familiarity, some fantastic and thrilling action setpieces, and it leaves the window open for a future outing. However, if there is indeed going to be a third, I hope Taylor Sheridan has an ace up his sleeve with a compelling reason to come back for more.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Sicario: Day of the Soldado arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures in a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital set. Pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc, the discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to trailers for other upcoming Sony releases before arriving at a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado makes its way onto Blu-ray with a solid 2.40:1 1080p transfer. Shot digitally and finished at a 2K DI, the image offers up a well-detailed and colorful image. Like the first Sicario, the color palette is dominated by pronounced tans, browns, and yellows with only small dips into reds and blues. As such the picture favors earth tones a bit more while blue skies enjoy some impressive pop. Blood also gets some good contrasting color highlights against the yellow/brown scenery. Details are strong and offer up some clean and grizzly facial features and scrubby beards of a variety of characters who don't shave often and spend a lot of time out in the sun. Flesh tones are healthy and tan. Black levels are nicely inky throughout, with only a couple scenes that felt a bit too dark for comfort. If you read the 4K UHD review I note the nighttime halo jump early in the film as an example of iffy black levels and the same can be said here. It's a very dark albeit brief sequence that skews a bit flat while also difficult to see what the heck is going on. Thankfully that is one of only a couple curious spots in an otherwise solid transfer.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado rings onto Blu-ray with a strong and sturdy DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio mix. Like the first Sicario, the movie doesn't feature wall to wall sound. There are quiet moments in between the storm that allows for some object-focused effects to come to the forefront. While the film still plays to the quiet moments, the action has a strong impact when called for. The explosions in the opening sequence on the border and in the shopping center are prime examples of where quiet can lead to a sharp and impactful explosion that rattles the subs and leads to some impressive focused sound effects that move about the soundscape. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and is never at odds with the various elements. Even during the heaviest of action sequences shouted commands come through cleanly. Hildur Guðnadóttir's score is a nice complement to the work that the late Jóhann Jóhannsson established and finds its own tonal similarities while adding its own sense of dread and foreboding to the mix. All around this is a clean and active mix that works perfectly for this sequel.
Given how this series is aiming to become a franchise of sorts, I was hoping for a fairly robust bonus feature collection. Sadly what we get here doesn't exactly amount to much more than the tried and true EPK material. There are some interesting details to glean from this package, but it's not a whole lot of "must-see" material.
Sicario was a thinking man's action picture. It was a tight tense masterpiece of effective action shooting with some impressive moody character meditations. Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a solid sequel that wasn't needed, but still manages to expand the world and prove there is room enough for this little endeavor to be a franchise unto itself. Its first half is pristine action magic with a clunky and often confusing second half that manages to pull itself together in the final moments to give you a glimmer of things to come - should another sequel actually be green-lit. Sony Pictures brings Sicario: Day of the Soldado to Blu-ray in good order with an on point A/V presentation and a decent if unremarkable package of bonus features. Taken as a whole this is a worthwhile addition to the collection but not as razor-sharp as the first film. Recommended.