[Editor’s Note: The following post contains spoilers for “Sicario: Day of the Soldado”]
Stefano Sollima’s “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” opens with a brutal act of violence that’s hard to forget while watching the rest of the movie’s two-hour runtime. The director appeared on Gregory Ellwood’s The Playlist podcast and admitted lots of discussions took place prior to filming about the scene and whether or not it was too graphic to include as the film’s opener.
The movie begins with an Islamic terrorist blowing himself up at the U.S.-Mexican border before cutting to a grocery store in Kansas City. Three men enter the store and two explosions go off, killing some of the shoppers. The camera fixates on a woman and her young child as they try to exit the store. The camera pans and reveals the third suicide bomber is standing at the front of the store’s entrance. The woman pleads to him to let her and her daughter exit safely, but as soon as they are close enough to the door he activates the bomb and the viewer watches as the mother and child are killed in the bombing.
Watching a young girl die in a suicide bombing is too graphic to stomach, but Sollima says the scene was important in getting the viewer to understand how Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro’s characters approach the conflict at the border at the film’s start. The cut from the bombing at the border to the terrorist attack in Kansas City sets up Brolin’s character to be convinced that Mexican drug cartels are smuggling Islamic terrorists across the border, which sets the “Day of the Soldado” plot in motion.
“We discussed it a lot. It’s a simple idea from where we start. To link the border with terrorism is the great progression [of the movie],” Sollima explains about the importance of the graphic scene. “If you keep the point of view of our characters, in the beginning of the story, you want to be with them and you want to feel with them that the mission they are doing makes sense.”
Sollima understands depicting a small child as the victim of a terrorist attack is a brutal inclusion to his film, but he maintains it was necessary to the change that takes place during the movie. The opening scene is intended to make Brolin and del Toro’s plan to start a war between drug cartels more sympathetic, but the director said viewers are meant to question the opening as the truth about what’s actually going on at the border is revealed throughout the film.
“Of course we discover later on that this wasn’t the truth,” Sollima said about the initial setup. “It was a tricky element but it works perfectly because it helps you in changing [your perspective] while the movie is going on. When you go back, it’s like, ‘Really? We started from this?'”
Sollima admitted that filming the mother and daughter’s tragic deaths in one shot does not make the scene easier to swallow for audiences. The camera never cuts from the moment we see the mother and daughter on screen to their deaths. For more from Sollima, listen to the director and Ellwood’s full discussion here.
“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” is now playing in theaters nationwide.