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‘Soldado: The Soldier’ review: Grim and gripping

Oggs Cruz
‘Soldado: The Soldier’ review: Grim and gripping
'Soldado' is clearly a vicious film

The most unfortunate things about Soldado: The Soldier is that it will always be seen basking beside the astounding precision of Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario (2015), and be seen as the paltrier of the two film.

The sequel, directed by Stefano Sollima who helmed episodes of the television series Gomorrah, feels like a completely different animal, that to compare it with its lauded predecessor will be a disservice to its very many merits.

Cynicism and amorality

Like Sicario, Soldado opens with a sudden explosion in a place where explosions don’t normally belong, putting into motion a series of sordid events that paint an America where cynicism and amorality are the norm.

It opens with a border chase that ends with one of the border crossers detonating a bomb. In a Kansas City supermarket, another suicide bomber wreaks havoc, killing and injuring innocent civilians. The bombings force the government to hire Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to find the connection between terrorism and illicit border trade, leading to the conclusion that the Mexican cartel, now intertwined with extremist agents, should be taken care of. Graver comes up with a plan to kidnap the daughter (Isabela Moner) of one of the cartel heads to start a war.

Soldado is clearly a vicious film.

It is unabashed about violence, as if it want its audience to be numb towards it in a fervent effort to evoke a land of lawlessness. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan attempts to shape a modern-day Western out of a contemporary crisis. It sort of works despite all the collateral issues, such as the film’s crushing pessimism and masochistic sketch of the drug and border situation.

 CHASE. Josh Brolin in 'Soldado.'

A point to the viciousness

There is, however, a point to Sollima’s evident proclivity for corruption and chaos.

Soldado insists that even in such dark territories, there are windows of possible redemption and glimpses of human connection that make all the bleakness and brutality more than just shallow spectacle.

There is a curiously affecting side plot of Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), who we learn from Villeneuve’s film is relentlessly vengeful for having his daughter killed, forming a stirring bond with the daughter of the same man who was responsible for his pain. That storyline isn’t novel given that scarred men finding some semblance of salvation from newly formed relationships with innocent wards populate many other film, but within the world that Soldado has explicitly expanded to involve a more worldwide scope of the dehumanizing efforts of government to quash its threats, it becomes more than just a diversion from the prominent anguish. It becomes respite.

 COINCIDENCE? The movie tackles one of today's controversial issues - the immigration boarder between the US and Mexico.

Garish harshness

This isn’t to say that Soldado is really a soft film with spurts of garish harshnes

It is first and foremost a tightly fleshed out thriller. It is consistently gripping and adamantly maintains Sicario’s grim perspective of the world we live in. –


Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ Tirad Pass.

Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema

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