Earlier this year, the Sicario saga got a blistering second installment, Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Again written by Taylor Sheridan and starring Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, calling the shots this time was Stefano Sollima. An Italian crime movie director, Sicario 2 marked his English-language debut and saw him tackling Mexican immigration into America.
With Sicario: Day of the Soldado is now out on digital, Blu-ray and DVD, Screen Rant sat down with Sollima to discuss making the film such a grim experience and how he views the growing franchise.
I'm going to start by talking about the darkness of this film. There's some harrowing stuff in here, from the very start - I'm thinking of the terrorist attack. How did you go about presenting it in such an upsetting way?
The idea there was to adopt a different point of view than from the rest of the movie. Because the rest of the movie, it keeps the point of the view of the character who is telling the story at the moment. And in the beginning, I decided to adopt a more neutral point of view. I mean, let's say this attack, it is where our story starts but without having any of our characters involved. So my personal approach [was] more objective, a little bit detached from the action. A sort of documentary style - meaning not the style I was shooting but the point of view that you get from this. So you feel that you are experiencing and you are watching something that is in a wide shot where you feel and you read everything, without the kind of filter that is normally... a layer you add when it's one of your characters inside the scene.
You talk about the audience's relationship to the characters, even that's quite interesting because audiences know Alejandro, but he's a character who's quite distant in the first Sicario movie. In this one. you get to know more about him and you're more on his side. How did you handle taking a character who is incredibly ambiguous and making him someone who the audience relates to as a protagonist?
That was the idea. Alejandro is the same character as you have seen in Sicario, but of course, here he's a main character. You have to have Alejandro, your character, experiencing a different level of complication where you go deeper and deeper inside his mind, inside this character. And then you put him in front of the many, many worlds in the story, during the story, where he has to make a choice. [...] In Sicario, the story was told by Emily Blunt's point of the view. The two characters were portrayed through her eyes. In this case, I changed completely the perspective and [with] each character, we are more closer to [them]. Each character now is a main character. So we have to show who he really is.
And, keeping with Alejandro a little bit. At the end he's shot pretty badly - I thought he was dead, but obviously, he's not. What was it like doing those scenes to trick the audience? And how did you figure out the angle of that headshot, so he could be shot and presumed dead but could actually, realistically survive?
Yeah, we did incredible research on it. I mean, we had several cases of people who survived a headshot, even more complex than the one we showed in our movie - ours was from cheek-to-cheek but a lot of people have survived lot more complicated injuries that were difficult for us to explain right after. So we chose the cheek-to-cheek because it was clearer and easier, in a way. And then we chose the right callibre and the right gun to ensure it's absolutely believable. So it's a believable cheat.
And you do buy it. When he turns up again, healed, you buy it. And with the ending, that's obviously such a stark ending to the movie with Miguel and Alejandro - you've got the mirroring of the introduction, you've got a new Sicario. How did idea develop and framing it in that way?
It was in the script, it was always the last scene. What I did was have the room to cut a couple of other scenes that were before it. That was more the ending for Matt. So we had the sequence where Matt comes back to the base and has a silent confrontation with his boss where he understands that Alejandro is probably shot. But then I felt that it wasn't really emotional and that way it's like all the elements to close the arcs of the character. Interestingly, it's not really an opening for an eventual third chapter, but more to give a homage to the Sicario saga idea. So it was to close [on] the kid and to show that Benicio really survived. Now, it's probably a little bit tired or he has something else in mind - that we don't know yet.
You mention the Sicario saga. Often when people discuss Sicario 3, it's as the end of a trilogy. Would you say having contributed the second part, you see it as a trilogy or an ongoing story?
I think it's an incredibly rich and artsful saga. So, I don't know really. I feel that each chapter is a movie on its own. I think that eventually you can do a Sicario saga movie not using any of the main characters. It's more a world. And also it about, at this point, a style on how you portray the world that surrounds you. So, I think it can go both ways. If the script works.
Would you be interested in coming back if you got a good script, or would you rather have that one entry?
I think it's more interesting for the saga to have every time new, fresh eyes. I'm talking more as an audience member than as a director. I would love to watch another chapter of Sicario done by another crew or director, who has his personal vision of the saga.
And talking of handing over, obviously, you were taking over from Denis, who did a fantastic job with the first one. What was your guy's relationship in making this one? Did he give you any advice?
No, he sent a really nice email the day before I started shooting, wishing me good luck on everything, it was really nice. And then he wrote me another email when he watched the movie. But we never talked about the project. The idea was to make two completely different movies, looking and telling the same war with some of the same characters. But it was more Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the screenplays, as a sort of link between the two projects. Even though, I asked Taylor to make the Soldado script really redundant, meaning that you could watch Soldado without having seen Sicario and have all the elements you need to understand the story and the character.
And one of the great things about the film is that it does stand entirely on its own. What was interesting there was the titling of the film - originally it was Soldado, and then the title changed to Sicario: Day of the Soldado, and in the UK they actually called it Sicario 2. So I wonder what your feelings were on that? Because having it identified as a Sicario film is good for people being aware, but at the same time it does draw those connections.
For me, Soldado is part of the Sicario saga. We changed the title - I don't know why they released it as Sicario 2, [it seems] too simplistic - but in the US it was Sicario: Day of the Soldado. It was a mix between the two where it's clear that it's part of the Sicario world, and by giving it a title that makes clear you don't have to watch Sicario to truly enjoy Soldado. So I think at the end it was a bit complicated title to say but it was a good choice.