From the moment Bob Hoskins first pulled on his red plumber’s overalls, video game inspired films have had a rocky history — one not even this year’s much-hyped Michael Fassbender and Justin Kurzel collaboration could reverse. But (and yes, we know we’ve said this before) Wildlands could be different. It’s certainly taking a unique approach: it’s a documentary.
“I was approached by Ubisoft to make a film as a companion piece to support the release of the game,” says director Colin Offland, that game being Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands. “The game is based in Bolivia, in a fictitious world where it’s become a narco-state. That was the starting point — what’s going on in Bolivia? And will it turn into that? I told the story so it would hold up as a documentary. Hopefully it can support the game, but after I told [Ubisoft] what I was going to do, they’ve had no involvement. Absolutely zilch.”
During his research, Offland then discovered Rusty Young, who wrote a book on the subject called Marching Powder. While talking to him, he realised Young’s knowledge and contacts would be invaluable, so he got him to front the documentary.
“Rusty takes us on the journey and he’s a great figure to do that because of his expertise — he’s lived and breathed this for the last 20 years. He very passionate about the story. And he opens doors [for us] because people appreciate how knowledgeable he is. And he speaks fluent Spanish, which was helpful when interviewing Popeye.”
Popeye is John Jairo Velásquez, former hitman for Pablo Escobar and murderer of more than 300 people, who features in the film alongside Navy SEALs, DEA agents and various other figures involved on both sides of the drug trade. They’re all there to try to help Offland with the ultimate question: can there possibly be a solution to the War on Drugs?
“I have an answer for that,” he claims, laughing. “Just not a very plausible one. It’s such a screwed up world. Everybody has tried everything. The stories I’ve heard, the things we’ve witnessed, it’s absolutely horrifying. You’d like people to think about what those drugs have gone through in order for them to get them. Potentially, that might make a difference.”
Wildlands launches on Amazon Video, Google Play and iTunes on 6 March.