Relevance is often nothing more than good timing and movies are lucky if they can capture the public imagination, spotlighting urgent stories just as they are leading global news bulletins.
“Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” with its gut-punching focus on the immiseration of refugees trying to cross into the US from Mexico, often unaccompanied children, is one such film.
The sequel to Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario” (2015) comes out in the US on Friday, with the White House struggling to contain a border crisis that has seen more than 2,000 migrant children detained separately from their parents, often long distances away and in cages.
Its star Josh Brolin told AFP he’d found it a “visceral experience” to watch the unfolding crisis, caused by a policy enacted by President Donald Trump that has shocked and angered the majority of Americans polled on the issue.
“You look at it and you see the citizens come out and start to say, ‘Wait a second. Where is the empathy here? Where is the fact that we’re talking about people, about kids screaming in terror?,'” he said.
Brolin, 50, is not against “zero tolerance” — and even ventures that “right now it feels like Trump has done something good” — but making children suffer, he believes, is beyond the pale.
“What are you going to do with the 2,000 kids that are separated? Just the whole thing seems so fucking callous to me,” he says.
Directed by Stefano Sollima, “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” opens with the US government beginning to suspect that cartels have started trafficking jihadists across the US border.
– Baby joy –
Brolin reprises CIA agent Matt Graver, enlisting the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) to escalate the war by kidnapping a cartel kingpin’s daughter (Isabela Moner).
An intense action thriller like its predecessor, the sequel ventures deep into the merciless border world of drug dealing, human trafficking and American foreign policy.
The issue of child separations is all the more emotive for Brolin since he will soon be welcoming a daughter of his own with his third wife, the 30-year-old actress Kathryn Boyd, in the fall.
It has been a long time since he had to change a nappy — his son and daughter with first wife Alice Adair are 30 and 25 respectively — but he says he’s raring to go.
“I love children, I love being around children. So the idea of this is just wonderful,” he says.
Born on February 12, 1968, in Santa Monica, California, Brolin is the son of actor James Brolin, who has been married for 20 years to Barbra Streisand.
The younger Brolin showed little interest in his father’s profession and his youth as a Hollywood brat in Santa Barbara — with episodes of stealing cars and heroin use — has been well rehearsed over the years.
The acting bug eventually hit and success came early as Brolin scored the role of Brand, the older brother, in cult classic “The Goonies” (1985) when he was just 16.
– ‘Summer of Brolin’ –
Brolin struggled financially for years in small roles but joined the A-list with the Coen brothers’ surprise hit “No Country for Old Men” (2007), and earned an Oscar nomination for Gus van Sant’s “Milk” (2008).
He has proved his consistency and versatility in a string well-received movies, working with greats like Guillermo del Toro, Ridley Scott and Oliver Stone.
By the early 2010s he was successful enough to be able to turn down a starring part in Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “Birdman” in favor of visiting his son in Thailand — a decision he admits causes him the occasional “what if?” pang.
In the last eight months he’s had leading roles in firefighting drama “Only the Brave” and two of the year’s biggest films, superhero juggernauts “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Deadpool 2.”
This spasm of globe-conquering success has prompted film writers to enthuse about the “Summer of Brolin,” although the actor himself is scornful of the hype.
“What’s next, the Fall of Brolin?” he laughs. “It’s going to go up and down, and that’s okay, that’s to be expected.”
Next up for Brolin, alongside the inevitable “Deadpool” and “Avengers” sequels, is “Untitled Josh Brolin Project” a “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-style self-parody comedy show he has created for Hulu.
As for another “Sicario,” the actor remains steadfastly noncommittal, warming to the idea of teaming up for a third time with Del Toro but not wanting to “do it just to do it.”
“We’ll see, man. I mean that really depends. I go back and forth in my head,” he says. “Part of me goes, ‘Yeah, that sounds like a great idea,’ and part of me goes, ‘I don’t know.'”