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movie reviews

Wildlands

Alongside the release of Ghost Recon: Wildlands comes Ubisoft's accompanying documentary about the real-life cartels.

  • Text: Sam Bishop
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When you think of films tied to video games, you'll probably jump straight to something like the Assassin's Creed movie, or perhaps an animated accompaniment like Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. Wildlands, instead, distinguishes itself by being a documentary about the content that Ubisoft's Ghost Recon: Wildlands takes inspiration from; the drug cartels of South America.

The documentary doesn't reference the game in any way, and so acts as a standalone entity documenting author Rusty Young's discoveries about the global drug trade, with a specific emphasis on South American countries like Bolivia, which is where Ghost Recon: Wildlands takes place.

There isn't much of an overarching narrative tying the entire documentary together, but instead Young interviews and details the lives of several individuals, including a drug runner, a smuggler, businessmen associated with the cartel, DEA agents, one of Pablo Escobar's assassins, and even a cartel member's ex-lover. These all serve as interesting case studies as to how the cartels and the drug trade as a whole operates, and give personal and down-to-earth viewpoints into what can sometimes be a fantasised area (Netflix's Narcos has done nothing to help this).

Here you begin to realise that it isn't all about the drugs, the women, and the lavish lifestyle, as throughout Wildlands you hear tales of domestic abuse, betrayals, murders, prisons, and much more. That being said, tonally it sits somewhere in-between the game's laid-back, detached approach and the live-action trailer's harrowing drama, in the sense that, although there's always serious messages being told, there's never too much focus on the horror - there aren't any moments that the particularly faint of heart won't be able to handle, for instance.

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Believe it or not, there's even some fun and lighthearted moments in there. Rusty meets a friend he stayed with in a prison when he was travelling through South America, for instance, and they laugh and joke together, and famous smuggler George Jung even reminisces fondly about his times back in the '70s selling drugs and living the life with plenty of beautiful women around him (you should watch the 2001 movie Blow for a dramatised account of his life in the drug smuggling business).

Content-wise, Wildlands can't be faulted, and it's a well-researched, interesting viewpoint on cartels both old and new, with perspectives from both sides of the fence, including the cartel themselves, and law enforcement too. Neither side if glorified or condemned, and Young is there purely to hear their viewpoints, providing a neutral voice to link these characters together, rather than to pass judgement on them when he hears them out, which makes for compelling viewing.

The documentary ends with a pretty weak tying-together note saying that if we Westerners don't curb 'our' taste for drugs, then the cartels won't ever stop being powerful, nor will the drug trade, but this pretty much comes out of nowhere since this agenda is never pushed for the entirety of the film beforehand. Overall, though, it's a very interesting insight into the lives of both the famous faces of the South American drug trade, like Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel, but also those of the others who aren't talked about so much. It's not directly tied to the game, but that doesn't matter - instead, it offers a point of view that the game simply can't offer.

You can read our review of Ghost Recon: Wildlands by clicking here.

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08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
overall score
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