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June 29, 2018

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

sicario 2 poster.jpg

Stefano Sollima - 2018
Columbia Pictures 35mm

For those who've been following me here, seeing films theatrically, and writing about current theatrical releases, doesn't happen often. What makes this even more unusual is that the film in question is the follow-up to a film I liked but did not love. Why not call this a sequel? Although the narrative is presented in such a way that it is assumed the viewer is familiar with the characters played by Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro, the narrative works as a standalone feature independent of any back story.

What initially intrigued me was well before the release today, reading that the director was Stefano Sollima. The last name was the same as that of the Italian director, Sergio Sollima, most famous for his trio of westerns featuring Tomas Milian as the rebellious peasant in films that served as political allegories. And sure enough, Stefano Sollima is the son. As it turns out, a fair amount of Stefano Sollima's work is easily available for stateside viewers and film critics who actually believe in the benefit of doing a little homework on the the filmmakers whose work is under consideration. The feature Suburra and the TV series Gomorrah are on Netflix, while the TV series Romanzo Criminale is on Amazon Prime.

I should note that Sollima only directed a handful of episodes of Gomorrah, but his visual style set the template for the rest of the series. Why I bring all of this up is because Sollima has been treated as incidental to the making of the film I will be referring to as Soldado or in some cases, has not been mentioned at all, with credit primarily going to screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. And while Sollima is admittedly a director for hire here in his English language debut, his previous work explains why he was given this gig, especially when Hollywood is notorious for giving foreign language filmmakers films that seemed doom to fail.

Suburra and the two series are about Italian crime families, inspired by true stories. Thematically, they are similar in that these are sometimes complicated narratives about rivalries between groups, as well as conflicting loyalties within the story's main group. There are scene of violence that erupt without warning. Visually, much of the action takes place in dimly lit places. Also, Sollima will film characters, as a group, from the back, seen as silhouettes.

Compared to Suburra, the narrative for Soldado is not very complicated. The only character that may keep the viewer guessing is that of Matt Graver, portrayed by Josh Brolin. There are a few moments where the film visually is similar to Sollima's previous work. Much as directors on a television series are hired to in part to maintain visual continuity between episodes, Sollima's job here was to provide a certain amount of consistency with the Denis Villaneuve's film visually with the sunbaked exteriors, and aurally with Hildur Guonadottir's music score which most closely resembles that of the late Johann Johannsson during the last major set piece. At this time, it appears that Sollima is set to do another Italian TV series, this time on drug trafficking. I would hope that Sollima makes another English language film, one more on his own terms.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 29, 2018 07:01 PM