'Sicario: Day of the Soldado' and the Inevitability of a Disappointing Sequel
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
The Inevitability of a Disappointing Sequel
No one expected a sequel. No one asked for a sequel. Guess what we got? A sequel. In every sense of the word. Make no mistake, the original Sicario was one of the absolute best movies of the decade, pairing an absolute genius director in Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners) with the de facto voice of the modern American West in screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water, Wind River) to create a tense, stylish thriller that excels in every detail, down to the crocs on Josh Brolin's feet. It was the type of movie that studios just don't make any more, a $30 million original concept starring big Hollywood stars (Emily Blunt, Benecio Del Toro, Josh Brolin) that doesn't even attempt to consider whether it might appeal to 12 year olds. It's harsh, morally ambiguous, and exhilarating. Day of the Soldado is merely a facade of those elements. The objectives for a project shift from art to commerce when a movie becomes a franchise. The producers followed the classic sequel playbook: bigger cast, higher stakes, more locations, more explosions. As is so often the case, they traded style for substance. Oh, you thought the Mexican drug cartels were scary? Let's throw in Islamic terrorists and Somalian pirates too for good measure. You thought one scene where a guy gets executed point-blank was brutal? Here's five more. Thought Brolin and Del Toro were capable? Now they are basically superheroes. That's the problem. The secret of the original Sicario, and for that matter any excellent stand-alone movie, is that it's only two hours. So little time! And then it's over! A filmmaker can carefully choose which details he or she wants to reveal to the audience, and those to be omitted. Anything can happen. That shroud of mystery is a powerful tool, which can be harnessed to produce drama, suspense, or comedy. In a sequel, the element of surprise is gone. We already know who the characters are, what they're capable of, and what they want. (minor spoiler here) For example, when a main character of this film finds himself on the receiving end of one of those point-blank executions, the audience doesn't believe for a second that he could actually be dead. They can't. How would they possibly sell a third film without him? Low and behold, a few minutes later he crawls to safety with a hole in his face, and makes a full recovery just in time to usher in a very heavy-handed setup for another sequel. Without Villeneuve at the helm, and Blunt in the lead, this movie wanders around from violent act to violent act, without any discernible point of view. It runs adjacent to political commentary on the immigration issue, but Italian director (Stefano Sollima) didn't seem too interested in making a statement one way or another. As is the inevitability of sequels, there were too many cooks in the kitchen and too many interests to serve to say much of anything clearly. Go check it out if you're a fan of intense action (and don't mind some gruesome violence), or if you like true Western vibes. Just don't expect a good movie. For everyone else, do yourself a favor and go watch Sicario. Whether it's your first time or your 50th, it'll be well worth it.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
As long as we're talking about Westerns, I have to recommend my all-time favorite entry into the genre. This 1969 classic finds the iconic duo of Paul Newman and Robert Redford at the peak of their powers (though I'll always prefer The Sting). As is the case with many movies of the era and genre, some of our more...ADD-inclined readers might find the pacing of this movie a little slow. There are even sections of the film that employ still photography accompanied by music, as an ode to the silent films of the time. The effect makes the narrative feel like a legend. But everything you could ever want in a Western is here: card-playing, bank-robbing, train-robbing, quick-drawing, fast-talking, horseback-riding and plenty of gun fights. Aside from the action, the movie is legitimately hilarious. And to cap it off, you get one of the greatest movie endings of all time.
Wind River (2017)
When I first saw the trailer for Wind River, the movie looked like nothing more than a Fargo knock-off featuring Jeremy Renner in a cowboy hat. That couldn't be farther from the truth, as Taylor Sheridan (same guy!) takes a turn in the director's chair and fits a surprisingly strong underlying social message about Native Americans living on reservations into a really engaging neo-noir thriller. As is Sheridan's signature, there are a handful of incredibly tense, suspenseful moments. But what separates it from other movies in the genre is the true emotional weight it carries, which make the smaller, quieter moments just as good or better than the action-packed ones. If none of that convinced you, watch this movie because Renner's character is a total bad ass (and looks great in a cowboy hat).