Day of Del Toro


The 2015 Sicario has a sequel, and it could have been a letdown. But Sicario: Day of the Soldado follows in the footsteps of the original, delivering a Movie that is as relentlessly suspenseful as it is graphic. Christian Tesfaye awards 8 out of 10 stars.

There is quite nothing like getting caught off-guard by a movie. It is a testament to the power of moving images and stories that two hours in a well-ventilated theatre with popcorn and a soft drink within reach can just as well leave us shocked, terrified, disoriented and unhinged.

Such movies come very rarely and it has happened to me only a handful of times, with the likes of the Japanese Rashomon, the French Irreversible and the German Metropolis. Sicario: Day of the Soldado did not affect me quite the way those other movies did. But it is a powerful movie that testifies to the injustice and ugliness our world has been, is, and will probably continue to be.

I was perhaps most affected by the movie given that it is underrated by critics, most of which were not convinced that the original, Sicario, needed a sequel. But they may have missed the point here. The original, another fantastic movie directed by Dennis Villeneuve, was about the United States’ war on drugs, and the heartbreak and hardship it causes those caught in the crossfire.

The sequel is about the human collaterals. The United States will continue to find wars to fight, and bad people will find a way to recruit innocent people or directly implicate them by hiding between them. Tragedy is everywhere, we just forget and find new wars to talk about.

The movie stars Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin as Alejandro and Matt, respectively, in one of the best performances of this year. They have a different mission this time around. A United States’ administration wants to incapacitate Mexican cartels that are smuggling migrants, some of which turn out to be terrorists, into the US. This will be easier said than done though had the cartels been infighting.

Matt, who recruits Alejandro, is tasked with destabilising the cartels by starting a war between them. First, they kill a lawyer of a prominent cartel leader, and then they kidnap the daughter of his rival. The latter part becomes complicated when the mission’s task force is ambushed in Mexico.

The direction is from Stefano Sollima, who was tasked with filling the formidable shoes of Villeneuve, one of the best directors currently working. And Sollima does not disappoint. His pacing in this film has been criticized, but I found it neither slow nor rushed.

He does take his time building suspense. This could have been a bad thing if the reveal was predictable but it is not. He crosses lines that should not be crossed. He revels in the depiction of characters that either are dragged through agonising situations or have to take the ethical jump to victimise others to achieve a particular outcome.

Together with Taylor Sheridan, who also scripted the prequel and the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water, the director creates a bleak world where there are no winners, and the players know this. Unperturbed, though, rivals endeavour not to be the bigger loser in this unavoidable zero-sum game.

The movie’s sobering theme and competent plot are reinforced by the actors that play the lead characters. Brolin is impeccable as always. He plays a man seemingly without a purpose. The character does not look like he enjoys his job but is good at it. Mostly, he is calculating and ruthless, and the only time his weak side is exposed is when he carries out an execution.

But in any movie that stars del Toro, it is hard to remain the one with the most memorable part. This is even if the Puerto Rican has only a handful of lines throughout the movie, as is the case here.

Del Toro struts through Soldado with unfettered arrogance, but still delivers a character that comes out as touching and modest. He kills almost without impunity but has a soft side for a kidnapped daughter of a Mexican cartel leader.

The performance by Del Toro is Oscar worthy. Few actors can play a grey character as effortlessly as he does here. It is as “in your face” as it gets. It is the sort of performance that could have carried the movie, even if the direction and writing were lacking. He is the ultimate Soldado, which is Spanish for soldier.


Published on Jul 07,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 949]



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