Super Satire: Sicario Day Of The Soldado

“Sicario: Day of The Soldado” is a remarkable film on many angles. Firstly, a lot of people myself included, would think that the movie is a sequel to the first Sicario movie when, in fact, it’s an alternative script that was drafted at the same time as the original movie. Yes, you read that correctly, Soldado is simply an alternative version of the first film. While that’s pretty simple to say – the idea of it being shot and given a wide release is so rare as to confuse movie-goers even when they read what I just wrote.

Yes, Soldado is the darker, alternative, to the first Sicario movie. It is a movie devoid of light and of hope. Emily Blunt, who’s FBI agent was the moral compass of the first film, is completely missing. Leaving Josh Brolin’s “Matt Graves” and Benecio Del Toro’s “Alejandro Gillick” to reign without any restrictions on their actions. The result is a film of rare darkness and satire, but one that ultimately leaves us wanting just a little bit more.

The movie opens with Islamic terrorists completing an attack that saw them smuggled by Mexican “Coyotes” (IE. people-smugglers) through the Southern border. This major attack gives the USA reason to authorize black ops to ignite a war between the now-stabilized Mexican drug cartels. The idea of this is when the cartels fight each other, they would be weaker for the USA to take out later.

**Spoilers follow this point**

In the beginning, all goes to plan. But the shit hits the fan when during one operation inside Mexico, a Mexican Federali SWAT team fires upon the Americans and is massacred by them in response. You can’t blame the Americans but the results are what they are. This creates a situation where Matt Graves has to turn on Alejandro who’s forced to try to sneak back across the border with a drug lord’s daughter. This same drug lord who happened to kill his family.

The action is good, there are some gory scenes particularly of Alejandro who survives an assassination attempt with a bullet wound to the head that offers up a lot of realistic blood and gore in spades. The action, like in the first film is tight. I particularly liked one mid-movie gun battle being shown from the perspective of the terrified drug lord’s daughter – “Isabela” – played by an actress named Isabela Moner. This actress acts surprisingly well for her age in her first scene, following a schoolyard fist fight. Josh Brolin and Benecio Del Toro clearly like their characters and deliver well as actors. The problem with the movie is that it’s a bit confusing and doesn’t give the payoff needed insofar as action.

The confusion is simply what I stated at the start of this article: Soldado is an alternative version of the first script, it is not a true sequel. If you know that, the movie falls into place, if you don’t, you don’t understand why certain scenes, lines, or decisions exist. The lack of payoff in action is that the movie is like the “Empire Strikes Back” – a middle act clearly to set up a third film.

The ending itself is the most confusing of all. Alejandro, a year after his failed assassination at the hand of a teenage gangbanger, catches up with the teen and offers to talk to him about becoming a “sicario” or “hitman”. Why? We don’t know. Presumably Alejandro, a former lawyer for a cartel, has no more cartel…So why does he need a hitman? The most plausible idea is that he would have used the kid to get to his boss. But this really isn’t explained.

This movie is hard to review. The first Sicario definitely had the script that should have been done first. But this movie provides a great contrast to the first as it’s devoid of a moral compass. Obama, not in name, is insulted as being a “weak POTUS” but that’s as political as it gets. The rest of the movie is apolitical, showing what these black ops men do and letting you decide if the cost of their work is ethical or not. But I give points to a movie that 1.) doesn’t browbeat its audience with its politics and 2.) doesn’t force touchy-feely happy scenes, because life doesn’t work like that. Soldado is bold and definitely worth a watch.

3 out of 4 stars.

 

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Exegesis Of A Scene: Glengarry Glen Ross

The first in an ongoing series, “Exegesis Of A Scene” I’m going to delve into what I believe are the best scenes in movie history. Explain different details I’ve noticed through countless viewings, and maybe draw your eyes to some things you wouldn’t ordinarily notice. I use the term “exegesis” as my old teacher Mr. Kennedy sold me on that beautiful word in high school. It means a ‘critical interpretation of text’ but hell, I’m adapting here! We’re doing it live!

The first film I’m going to tackle is “Glengarry Glen Ross”. This 1992 classic adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer and Tony award-winning 1984 play involves the plight of four real estate salesmen, their attempts to not get fired, as most of them are not doing well. A mystery opens up later about some stolen leads.

However, in most people who have seen the movie it is Alec Baldwin’s character “Blake” which steals the show. Baldwin has a single scene, which is mostly a monologue and then he’s gone to never reappear. Most surprisingly, Baldwin’s scene and character never existed in the original play! It was a scene originally written for Baldwin and the risk pays off, it’s fantastic. I would direct you now to go to the end of my blog, view the scene in the embedded video, then scroll back up here below the dotted line for some exegesis.

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Ok, so the first thing we notice is how disheveled the salesmen are. They’re moving in random ways and doing random things, it instantly gives us the impression they’re losers. However, one of them is missing, Roma, and a comment is made. That’s important for my discussion a bit later, so remember it. Notice the body language as Blake begins to speak – one salesmen immediately leaves to get coffee, another sits with his legs spread as if he doesn’t give a crap. Truth is, they don’t, and Blake doesn’t have their attention. Lets look at Blake for a moment, he’s perfect, his hair is perfectly done, not a strand loose. His suit and clothing is impeccable and he moves with ‘violent determination’ as I see it. Quickly Blake unloads an iconic line (of which I even own a T-shirt that references this…Was wearing it today!) “Put that coffee down. Coffee’s for closers.” As the rest of the salesmen begin to write Blake off entirely, and attempt to leave, he starts to emasculate them. Telling them the “good news” is that they’re fired – the bad news is, they get to work to get their jobs back.

Right before that line though when asked why he’s there, Baldwin says “I’m on a mission of mercy” but listen to his tone when he says that. There’s a messiacal bent to it, a vibration in his voice, as if he’s trying to imply he’s a celestial or supernatural authority. The next part of the speech turns Blake into saying “The leads are weak, you’re weak.” When asked next what his name is – Blake doesn’t answer – he says “Fuck you, that’s my name” and proceeds to emasculate one of the salesmen by showing off the wealth his success has brought. “I drove an $80,000 BMW here, that’s my name.” Interesting how he dehumanizes himself like this? Yet, he places himself on this pedestal but it isn’t a human one. Blake is something to be achieved, a goal, quite possibly an unobtainable one yet a concrete, material, goal. In fact, right after that he looks at another salesman, Shelly, and says “Your name is wanting…”

This is the point Blake dives into specifics “ABC…Always Be Closing”. He implores the salespeople to close, or walk. The now line is perhaps the most interesting. He goes over another acronym “AIDA” with “D” being decision and what does he say to illustrate his point? “Have you made your decision for Christ?” Right at that moment a car, the only car to drive by the entire speech, rolls past the window of the sales office and the headlights flash over Blake at that very moment. This is no accident, this was an intentional move by the director.

Why? It’s time to delve into my theory. Blake *IS* a supernatural force in this movie – he represents sales incarnate, as if “sales” became corporeal in human form. He is fueled by the only thing sales is every fueled by: closing. If you don’t close, you don’t have a sale. Period, nothing else matters. In addition, Blake has made and will make multiple references to desirable goods – the fruit of success. His suit and lifestyle first, his BMW second, his golden watch third, and lastly explicitly telling them his salary from the past year. This is also why he doesn’t answer who his name is just a minute ago. He’s not meant to be seen by us or the salespeople as a human figure, he’s an ideal. When he explains his salary he says “I made $970,000 last year…That’s who I am.”

Next, Blake talks about whether he’s “abusing” them or not with his harsh speech. But he explains that that’s what sales is and if you don’t like it, leave. His following statements have to do with the money being “out there” for the taking. As if there’s a simple pile of cash, why don’t you just take it? That actually makes sense – sales is the direct lead to that money. Sell the prospect, get the money. It’s tough; however, it really is that simple. Then comes the real bait: the Glengarry leads. These are high-quality leads for the salespeople but they can’t have them just yet…They need to prove themselves as closers first.

And there you have it…Mostly. One last point is what I mentioned in the beginning: Al Pacino’s character Roma is missing, why? He’s the best salesperson. He doesn’t need to be in this scene locked in with the other underachievers. I would go so far as to say his presence would have ruined the scene as it would have watered down Blake’s ability to tear the office apart. Blake can only exist as a messiah to those that need him. As Jesus said “the healthy don’t need a doctor”. Roma’s challenges lie in a different direction; however, the rest of the office share the same vices: laziness, complacency, a loss of fire and hunger for sales. They have lost the core foundation of what sales IS and Blake serves as a powerful avatar for what sales is for those men.

In Defense Of Iceman

People that know me and my obsession with “Top Gun” – my favorite movie of all time – ask me one question about it: why Iceman? See, Iceman…Tom Cruise’s character’s rival and the antagonist of most of the film, is my favorite character. He’s one of the biggest reasons I watch the movie and fell in love with it as a kid. But when Tom Cruise is the main character, so emotional, so *intuitive* (do I ever stop saying that word?) , so…Cool…Do I spend all that money to put together my Iceman costume and props?

I figured as I’m 33 years old with Top Gun 2 coming out next summer I figured it was high time to answer this question.

Firstly, I always wanted to be a fighter pilot as a kid. It was the first job I ever wanted to do. Poor eyesight robbed me of that by grade 5, but previously to that there was nothing I wanted more than, in Charlie’s (she’s the love interest in Top Gun…) words be “…Mach 2 with your hair on fire.” But even as a kid I understood that 1.) planes were expensive and 2.) they were paid for by the taxpayer. In fact, “Striker” – the commander of the aircraft carrier in the movie – tells Maverick near the beginning “you don’t own that plane, the taxpayers do!” That always stuck with me. And respect for the taxpayer is still a big deal for me given where I fall on the political spectrum.

Iceman is the definitive pilot, or at least what the definitive pilot should be. He’s calm, responsible, very skilled (people forget that he leads Maverick the entire Top Gun class), and he’s honestly a good guy. Is he a bad boy fighter jock hitting on his teacher? No…Does he ride a cool Kawasaki Ninja in a leather jacket at sunset? No…He’s in his cabin studying theory and figuring out how to be the best damn fighter pilot. So that when the chips are down he has his wingman’s back and will be best prepared to face the enemy and WIN.

Iceman gets a bad rap through most of the movie being portrayed as the “bad guy” simply because during training I guess Maverick needed a foil. But Iceman isn’t “bad” at all. In fact, he does his utmost to do everything right by Maverick. What I’m meaning here is there are at least two conversations in the movie where Iceman tries to mend fences with Maverick and get him to chill out and focus on the big picture:

“Maverick, it’s not your flying, it’s your attitude. The enemy’s dangerous, but right now you’re worse. Dangerous and foolish. You may not like who’s flying with you, but whose side are you on?”

Who’s side are you on? That’s honestly poignant and I say that without irony. Maverick is a member of the U.S. Navy, he is a naval aviator and a key cog on a TEAM. But he never flies or acts like a team player until the final battle. It’s Maverick’s recklessness that gets Goose, Maverick’s radio intercept operator (RIO), killed by being overly aggressive, forcing Iceman to bug out from a kill he was attempting in the training mission where Goose dies. One part of the movie that irks me is how Maverick is not held to account for this. Maverick implores Iceman over and over to prematurely bug out from his attempted kill just because Maverick is impatient to get the kill himself.

In the final battle it is Iceman who is chosen to lead the combat air patrol (CAP). When Hollywood is shot down early, what people forget is that Iceman holds off 7 MiGs (I believe) for about 10-15 minutes until Maverick gets there. One vs. seven in a dogfight for 10-15 minutes. That’s nuts level skill! Even unrealistic. As all it would take is one MiG to back off and get into a firing position. Sure enough, Maverick saves the day (Iceman does get one solid kill at least) and when they land they’re best of friends.

My hope is that in Top Gun 2, which Val Kilmer/Iceman is in, that Iceman finally gets the respect he deserves. How does that look? Quite simply the same relationship that Viper and Jester (the two trainers in Top Gun) had in the first movie. Even though Viper was Jester’s superior, in every scene Viper looks for Jester’s honest opinion and treats him as a partner, not a pawn.

Iceman is the real hero of Top Gun and that’s why he’s my favorite.