Sicario & Soldado: the making of two hits

Some filmmakers go the extra mile in the name of authenticity, but the Sicario films go even further. Here’s how the 2015 original plunged us into the candid world of the Mexico cartels – and why this year’s Sicario 2: Soldado will leave you in a very real cold sweat.

Stranger than fiction

Raised on the Texas-Mexico border, Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan always had a grim fascination with the cartels on his doorstep (“It’s such a visceral war that was being ignored by our media,” he told Hollywood Reporter).

Weaving strands from real-life CIA operations and fusing that research with his flair for human storytelling, Sheridan’s searingly honest script saw an idealistic young agent (played by Emily Blunt) plunged into a murky Mexico-based task force. Now, for Soldado, Sheridan takes the pulse of global affairs, with a jihadi-based plot that ratchets up the tension. 

Shooting to kill

Forget comfortable Hollywood studios and green screen technology – the original Sicario saw the team enlist a military advisor and shoot on location in Juárez, then renowned as one of Mexico’s most dangerous cities.

Amazingly, even the kidnap of a location scout on the first movie didn’t stop the crew hitting New Mexico for the sequel. Expect more dust and degradation, with blacked-out SUVs carving through desert scenes that would be beautiful if they weren’t sprinkled with bullets and bodies. 

It’s a dirty job

Emily Blunt threw herself into the original Sicario – from learning to shoot a machine gun to interviewing female FBI agents – and the actress became so immersed in her role as Kate that she had trouble sleeping.

She won’t be back for Soldado, but this new movie sees Sheridan twist the dynamic with another wholly believable female character, Isabela Reyes: the kidnapped daughter of a feared narcotics kingpin.

I think the human factor comes from her,” says Del Toro. “Isabela Moner is terrific in the movie, very strong, and I think that’s gonna replace the feeling that we had for Emily Blunt’s character in Sicario.” 

Murder most foul

The Sicario scenes that keep you awake at night – like the bodies strung from a bridge or the victims bricked into a gangland hideout – aren’t a figment of Sheridan’s imagination, but grim discoveries from FBI casebooks and interviews with thousands of field operatives (“All of the violence you see was based on actual events,” he told Deadline. “Bodies on bridges and bodies in walls, I didn’t make that up”).

Returning as conflicted hitman Alejandro Gillick, Benicio Del Toro says that Soldado will have plenty of reality-rooted moments, from brutal executions to bullet-riddled vehicles. You have been warned.

Are you a big film fan? Get more on the latest news, go behind the scenes and walk the red carpet with ODEON Scene: The bigger picture.

Cold Pursuit
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