[FYI, THERE ARE NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW]
The movie Sicario: Day of the Soldado just had a short run in the theaters. This sequel was a must-see for me. I was sucked into the first movie when it came out in 2015. But why am I reviewing it here? Well, it seemed germane to on Colombia because the movie deals with Colombia’s past, as well as Mexico’s and the U.S.’s present. Additionally, the story is global with roots in Colombia. The plot scope includes pirates from Yemen, terrorists from the middle east (and the U.S.!), a Colombian sicario (of course), Mexican drug cartels and the United States government with its CIA and DEA and Border Patrol foot soldiers.
When the first film showed, I had tried to get my girlfriend at that time to watch it with me. She couldn’t. She’s a Colombian journalist and communications professional who over the course of her career has worked directly with victims of Colombia’s armed conflict. She had been through dicey situations and her work with the victims brought her face-to-face with worse. The violence depicted in that first Sicario movie was too real, to close to life for her. Not what she considered Friday night entertainment. We rented Hotel Transylvania instead.
As a sheltered American, on the other hand, on-screen violence, even real, gritty, dirty ugly and dark violence, still appeals to my sense of fantasy, adventure and vicarious wannabeism. Meaning, I wanna be that dark, brooding hero or anti-hero. And if automatic weapons lock and load, sign me up.
Anyway, I managed to get a date for the sequel. The movie is violent, gritty and ostensibly real, maybe too real for Hollywood fare. I enjoyed watching the Sicario: Day of the Soldado even more than the first one. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Or maybe I think I’m learning about the world through these movies. I know, I’m naïve.
Sicario, the Man and the Word
The main character, el Sicario, played by Benicio Del Toro, is Colombian. He was originally an attorney prosecuting drug lords. He’s turned into an assassin who seeks vengeance from the drug lords who gruesomely murdered his wife and daughter. While the first movie just showed the character as the weapon he had been turned into, the second movie puts him to task and shows he still has a conscious.
The word Sicario has a special place in Colombian vernacular. It means more than just hitman or assassin. It paints the picture of a specific type of hitman, one specifically tied to the world of cartels and drugs, and a decided lack of future.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is entertainment with a message. It shows the complications and consequences of actions taken by all sides of a non-linear, unbalanced equation. Hopefully this dirty, messy, gritty, ugly truth is in Colombia’s past to stay and soon will be in Mexico’s past.
The movie got me thinking a lot about Mexico because I’m going to be traveling through the country soon. (More on that in the coming weeks.) Ensuring my trip is safe is an important part of my planning. One friend of mine has already expressed her horror at my plans and has quite vehemently stated that under no circumstances should I drive through Mexico. Interestingly enough she (an American) lives there. “So, it’s okay for you to live there, but I can’t drive through?” She backed off her stance when I pointed out that lack of coherency.
Sicario made me think about the United States too. Specifically, about the current U.S. presidential administration’s policy against immigration and its way of dealing with border control. No one’s right, everyone’s guilty of some wrong.
The movie can be considered a mirror. But of course, no one wants to look at an ugly reflection just because there’s truth. The thing still has to entertain. After all, it is a movie. Sicario’s story engages. Think if it as an ugly reflection you won’t be able to turn away from. In an interview, Benicio Del Toro, along with his co-star Josh Brolin, who plays CIA operative Matt Graver, described the plot as a basketball game that goes into double or triple overtime. You’re never sure who’s wining or even who wins in the end.
I use the analogy of a hard look at an ugly reflection because, especially toward the end of the film, the camera moves in close on the characters’ faces. We’re put inside their heads as they grapple with what they have to do or what they’ve just done. Those long closeups are accompanied by a haunting soundtrack. The music is the auditory equivalent of the dark abyss the two main characters dive into and then must climb out of. The viewer remains in doubt as to whether or not the characters succeed in their escape.
More on the Violence
A final note on the violence. My date for this sequel was another Colombian woman. When the movie ended, I asked her specifically what she thought of the violence. She had made it through the 122 minutes and I hadn’t noticed her squirming. She shrugged. The violence didn’t bother her. She added that it was familiar. That’s not a good thing either, but it’s understandable. She’s from a not too great neighborhood in Medellín, the city that just 20 years ago was listed as one of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world.
I recommend seeing Sicario: Day of the Soldado, unless you’re like my ex-girlfriend who has lived violence first-hand. If that’s the case, go see the latest offering by Disney.