The past few years have brought a number of promising new filmmakers to Hollywood’s frontline. However, few are as widely revered as Denis Villeneuve. The French-Canadian director already had several films to his credit before helming the acclaimed, Oscar-nominated thriller Prisoners starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Most recently, Villeneuve offered an intriguing, politically charged action-thriller in last year’s Sicario (Spanish for “hitman”). Despite three Oscar nominations and critical raves, the film — which stars Emily Blunt as a naive FBI agent whose values are challenged when she is recruited for a special task force — was only a moderate box office success, earning $46 million against a $30 million production budget.
Regardless, that performance was enough for Lionsgate Films to start development on a sequel/spinoff that would center on the mysterious Alejandro played so memorably by Benicio del Toro in the first film. Titled Soldado (Spanish for “soldier”), the project will thus far only see Villeneuve return in a producing capacity, and Blunt will no longer be involved due to scheduling conflicts (likely with Mary Poppins Returns).
Regardless of the fact that its predecessor’s leading star and director are not back onboard, there are still plenty of reasons why fans of Sicario should relish the chance to see a follow-up.
Although Blunt was excellent in the first film, her character largely served as the audience surrogate the first time around, leading viewers into the seedy world in which Josh Brolin’s CIA agent worked. Now that we’ve already seen its inner workings dangerously up close, it shouldn’t be too hard for Soldado to move on without Blunt’s involvement.
Of course, both del Toro and Brolin have been confirmed to reprise their roles, ensuring that the darker themes of Sicario will carry into its sequel. Moreover, the chance to learn more about Alejandro — who essentially emerged as a new protagonist in the third act of Sicario — is too enticing an offer to turn down.
Taylor Sheridan — the actor/screenwriter who provided the script to Sicario — will also return to continue the story he started in the first film, lending even further proof that Soldado might be able to maintain the same admittedly high benchmark set by its predecessor. The seemingly contrasting nature of the two titles seem as if they will delve even deeper into the morally complex world of Alejandro, and it will likely touch on his relationship with Brolin’s Matt Graver as well.
After all, Alejandro appears to be more or less a hired gun in Sicario. How their connection evolves in the sequel will no doubt tie into the more militarized title of Soldado. Perhaps we’ll even get some flashbacks to how they became acquainted and under what circumstances Graver is willing to turn to someone like Alejandro for assistance in such a sensitive matter.
Up-and-coming director Stefano Sollima will hop behind the camera for Soldado, and though the filmmaker has only directed two feature-length films — 2012 crime drama ACAB: All Cops Are Bastards and 2015 neo-noir Suburra — he has nearly 20 years of experience directing crime television and has demonstrated skill handling material with such murky, complex characters as those in Sicario.
In addition, reports indicate that Villeneuve will remain on in some capacity. So it’s likely that he was somewhat involved in recruiting Sollima to take on Soldado, and the promise of new blood to the now-franchise could help keep things fresh in the process. Fans of gritty, brilliantly acted, gorgeously shot thrillers — Roger Deakins’ cinematography earned an Oscar nod, after all — would be wise to track down Sicario.
Due to a crowded marketplace, the film likely slipped through the cracks for a lot of moviegoers, but considering that the film’s sequel is coming together fast and has a world of narrative possibilities ahead of it), now is the perfect time to catch up on Villeneuve’s latest release.
As for the director himself, he’s busy prepping the long-rumored (but now finally happening) sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner. By the looks of it, Soldado may be shaping up nicely if the current news is any indication. Keep an eye out for updates as the film continues on the road to production.
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