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Film / Sicario: Day of the Soldado

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"How do you define terrorism?"
Graver: You gonna help us start a war.
Alejandro: With who?
Graver: Everyone.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado is the 2018 sequel to Sicario.

The film stars Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, reprising their roles from the last film. Writer Taylor Sheridan returns for script duties as he did on the first film while new director Stefano Sollima (Gomorrah, All Cops Are Bastards) steps into the director's chair instead of the first film's director Denis Villeneuve.

Matt Graver calls on Alejandro Gillick when Mexican drug cartels start to smuggle terrorists across the U.S. border. Things escalate even further when Matt and Alejandro kidnap a top kingpin's daughter to deliberately increase the tensions and ignite a war between cartels.

Producer Trent Luckinbill mentions that a third film, Sicario Capos, is currently in development with plans to start production in Spring/Summer 2021.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado contains examples of:

  • Armor Is Useless: Even though the Mexican Federal Police are heavily armored, they are easily killed by .45 and 9mm ammunition used by the CIA contractors, historically bad penetrators.
  • Ascended Extra: Steve Forsing , the CIA agent who was friends with Matt in Sicario, has a much bigger presence in Soldado, where in the original film he disappeared after the convoy extraction from Juarez.
  • Attack Drone: Matt Graver has a UAV blow up a Somali pirates house and his brother, and threatens to drone strike his remaining brothers until he reveals the ship his people allowed to pass the Gulf of Somalia.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Fundamentalist Muslim terrorists are working with Mexican Cartels to sneak through the border and strike at targets - two of America's worst fears, in one! Except the suicide bomber who got through the border in the beginning was an aberration in the grand scheme of Islamist terror and the rest of the bombers didn't go through the border - they were unrelated homegrown terrorists. By the time the US realizes its mistake, it's already spent a lot of money to trigger yet another Cartel war, with collateral damage, all the while doing nothing to actually fix the underlying issues of illegal immigration and terrorism - and making it worse by ordering an op to stop cold turkey and kill an innocent civilian.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Happens to several people in the film. Most notably Alejandro, though he survives as it only hits him in the cheek.
  • Break the Haughty: Isabel is introduced as a smug, arrogant Alpha Bitch who takes obvious pleasure in leveraging her father's reputation to get what she wants. It doesn't last ten minutes before she's thrown into absolute hell, and when the film is over, she's borderline catatonic and most likely traumatized for the rest of her life.
  • Call-Back:
    • In Sicario, Alejandro warns that the Mexican state police are not always the good guys. It is the Tamaulipas State Police, along with corrupt members of the Mexican Federal Police, who attack the CIA convoy.
    • It's obvious Alejandro has a soft spot for Isabel in the same way he had a soft spot for Kate, as they both reminded him of his daughter.
    • Alejandro's daughter figures into the plot again - this time, it's how he knows sign language, as she was deaf.
    • Miguel's entire arc mimics the corrupt cop's from the first film - a seemingly unrelated and innocent bystander who is actually active in the Cartel business who winds up crossing paths with the main characters and getting someone killed.
    • The Cartel lawyer who is personally singled out and executed by Alejandro recognizes him as "Medellin."
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Just after the US government finds evidence of Islamists crossing the border with the aid of Mexican Cartels, a completely separate group of homegrown Islamic terrorists from New Jersey blow up of supermarket in Kansas City. The odds of the two events being unconnected is so remote that the US government can be forgiven for jumping to the wrong conclusions, and also winds up being the operation's undoing: the government realizes they went down the wrong rabbit hole and want to pull out... at a critical time in the op and leave two of their agents high and dry, as well as kill an underaged civilian to cover their tracks.
    • Alejandro contacts a group to help him and Isabel cross the border, which just so happens to include a kid who saw him in Texas a few days ago.
  • Cowboy Cop: Multiple occasions where Matt Graver complies with this trope:
    • First is when he enters Bashiir's interrogation cell and jokes that he isn't going to waterboard him, as waterboarding is what the CIA does when the cannot torture.
    • He later orders a drone strike on Bashiir's house, killing his brother, remarking there is no rules, just orders.
  • Death of a Child: The Kansas City bombing claims the lives of two children.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: After the cartel mission gets to a point where quite a few Mexican police are dead, alongside finding out the Kansas City bombers were American, the U.S government shuts down the black op they had going with Matt. When Matt says they should keep going, because "this is why shit never gets changed," this is Matt's handler's response. Meaning, the goal was never to actually change things, but to make the president and the U.S look good after the bombing.
  • Dirty Cop: The Mexican police ambush the convoy leading Isabel Reyes. Matt's team firing back and killing a bunch of them is the main cause for the U.S dropping the black op they had going.
  • Divide and Conquer: This is the strategy the US government decides on to fight the drug cartels in Mexico-use false flag operations so they all turn against each other.
  • Door-Closes Ending: When Alejandro asks Miguel if he wants to be a sicario, he closes the bathroom door.
  • Empty Shell: Isabel at the end. Given what she's seen, this is a very justified example.
  • Evil Mentor: Alejandro becomes this at the very end of the film, to the kid who shot him in the head.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Matt and Alejandro are no strangers to doing some pretty nasty things in their fight against their enemies, but killing Isabel to cover up the whole operation doesn't sit well with either of them.
  • False Flag Operation: In order to get the smuggling of terrorists across the border to stop, the U.S. government and Matt conspire to kidnap a cartel boss's daughter to get rival cartels warring against each other.
  • Forced to Watch: Matt interrogates a Somali pirate by making him watch a live feed of the man's brother being killed by a bomb. When the man tearfully tries to look away, Matt holds his head still so he will be forced to watch. After the brother dies, Matt threatens more of his family members and the man caves.
  • Gangbangers: Discussed and played around with - Miguel does not look like a typical cholo. He's from a middle-class bilingual family, is implied to be at least doing okay in school (prior to him cutting class in favor of hanging out with his Cartel-allied cousin, who himself looks more like an American redneck than a cholo), and looks and acts more like an Emo Teen than the wifebeater-and-shorts chip-on-their-shoulder cholo stereotypically associated with Latino crime. Matt even complains about this when they nearly run over Miguel - "You can't even tell if they're gangbangers anymore," he laments.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The first film results in Alejandro killing Fausto Alarcon, the senior lieutenant in the Sonora Cartel directly responsible for his family's death. This film introduces Carlos Reyes, the kingpin and leader of the cartel, who likely gave Alarcon his orders and is thus Alejandro's arch nemesis.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: After Matt and his convoy are ambushed by the Mexican police and it's found out the rest of the terrorists who bombed Kansas City were U.S citizens from New Jersey, the U.S. scrubs the mission and cuts off Alejandro from support, shifting the plot into getting Isabel across the border safely before Matt's forced to 'retire' Isabel... or if rival Cartels don't find her, first.
  • Hidden Depths: Alejandro is revealed to be fluent in sign language, because his late daughter was deaf.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: This is Matt's reasoning after killing quite a lot of Mexican police officers who were ambushing his team.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: All prospective members of the Cartel shown running a human trafficking ring are inducted by executing a captured Cartel enemy. If they refuse, they get executed instead.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Alejandro and another CIA operative dress as DEA federal agents when carrying out the faked rescue of Isobel Reyes in Texas.
  • Made of Iron: Alejandro survives a bullet to the head and even shows up one year later to confront the kid who shot him.
  • Mafia Princess: Isabel Reyes is the teenage daughter of the head of one Mexico's largest drug cartels and lives in a 30-room mansion all to herself. When we first meet her she is no stranger to using her status to get away with stuff like fighting a classmate for insulting her.
  • Market-Based Title: Released in the UK as the Sicario 2: Soldado.
  • Mexican Standoff: Multiple examples, as befits a film set mostly in Mexico, but the biggest one happens between Matt's team and the Mexican police force's rear guard after the vanguard revealed themselves as traitors. It ends with all the cops dead and no US fatalities.
  • Middle Eastern Terrorists: Yemeni terrorists infiltrate the United States through the Mexican border to bomb a shopping mall in Kansas City. The U.S. government declares a dirty war on the cartels that control human trafficking in response. However, it's later discovered that the Yemeni terrorists attempting to cross the border are separate from the Kansas City bombers, who are a home-grown cell.
  • Military Coup: What Andy Wheeldon, the leader of the PMC Matt Graves contracts the majority of his operatives from thinks the initial plan is. He seems almost relieved when Matt tells him the operations is against a Mexican cartel not the Mexican government...or the Ukrainian Government.
  • Mob War: The U.S. government attempts to incite an inter-cartel war in Mexico in retaliation for their ties to terrorist groups, kidnapping the daughter of one of the cartel's leaders in a False Flag Operation.
  • Never the Obvious Suspect One of the coyotes is revealed to be an all-American white suburban woman, who drives a family minivan with her baby daughter and cheerfully offers to give Miguel a ride home.
  • Police Are Useless: When they're on the cartel's payroll, that is. Which the ones in the film are, of course.
  • Private Military Contractors: Graver channels all the logistics of the operation through one of these for Plausible Deniability. In addition to a hefty fee, the guy running it asks for a pardon before he agrees to do it. They also have impressive offerings, such as Blackhawk helicopters, missile equipped UAV drones and logistics and comms equipment compatible with US-JSOC.
  • R-Rated Opening: The film's opening shows in rapid succession bombings happening in the United States and the border while Matt is seen torturing a Somalian pirate by bumping off his brothers one by one with just a simple phone call.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Hollywood would like you to believe that bullets hitting armor knock you over. In reality, ceramic armor will capture energy to the point of making it almost imperceptible.
  • Retcon: A minor one, bordering on Re Vision: Sicario saw Alejandro personally kill the a senior cartel member (Fausto Alarcon) responsible for his family's death, but Soldado shows he's not done yet - he's also gunning for the leader of the Sonora Cartel (Carlos Reyes), and his messy revenge on a lawyer from the competitor Matamoros Cartel and eagerness to go through with the kidnapping op make it clear he's still got some crosses to bear.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: And they're some very slim rays of hope. To wit: The war that the U.S. was trying to start between the cartels doesn't work due to sabotage, Alejandro is abandoned by Matt, Isabel is shown to be an emotionless wreck at the end and thrown into witness protection by Matt out of spite towards Cynthia and finally, Miguel has become a full blown cartel thug complete with tattoos and everything. The only positives, if one can call them such, to come out of this ending are that Isabel is at least alive and safe due to Matt disobeying his orders, and Alejandro survives and is seen trying to recruit Miguel to turn him into a monster on par with him.
  • Red Herring: While one terrorist is caught trying to sneak across the border, no others are caught and it's found out that the rest of the terrorists behind the bombings came from New Jersey.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After seeing Alejandro shot in the face and presumed dead, Matt ensues within minutes into this, utterly having his team destroy the smugglers responsible, to the point of being in such a fury, that he demands the helpless smugglers in the back of the pick up truck driving them stand up, simply for him to open fire to let out his anger. Includes a CMOA in which in the state of anger he is in sees a smuggler holding Isabel hostage with only 10% of his face sticking out and Matt still effortlessly hitting him. Also a double moment of CMOA and CMOH in that he chooses to spare Isabel and carry her to the border instead of doing what he was ordered to do in anger against his superiors.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: Graver kidnaps a Somali pirate to get information on how the Yemeni terrorists made it to Mexico.
  • Sequel Hook: The movie ends with Alejandro about to start teaching Miguel the ways of the Sicario, and Isabel in US custody with Matt.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The suicide bombers at that store turned out to have been from New Jersey, meaning they were probably not smuggled in by the cartels. This means that almost every retaliatory action the CIA took in this film, from interrogating the pirate to abducting Isabel, was ultimately pointless.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Isabel sports one in her final scene as a clear sign of how brutally the things she was forced to witness have broken her.
  • Time Skip: At the very end the story skip forward one year for the final scene.
  • Western Terrorists: After it appears that Mexican drug cartels are behind trafficking Islamic suicide bombers into the US, the President has all Mexican drug cartels added to the list of terrorist organisations.
  • You Have Failed Me:
    • A Dirty Cop who's on Isabela's father's payroll shoots her drivers for failing to stop her kidnapping.
    • After Alejandro has been captured by the Mexican trafficker gang, their boss hands one of his teenage goons a gun and orders him to kill Alejandro as a Rite of Passage to become a full sicarionote . The boy ultimately chickens out and gets shot in the head with the very same gun seconds laternote .

"Let's talk about your future."