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Brothers (2009)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
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5.7
 / 10
2 votes
Genres:
Drama, Family Drama, War Drama
Director:
Jim Sheridan Jim Sheridan
Starring:
Tobey Maguire Tobey Maguire
Jake Gyllenhaal Jake Gyllenhaal
Natalie Portman Natalie Portman
Sam Shepard Sam Shepard
Mare Winningham Mare Winningham
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: December 07, 2009
The film "Brothers" was almost a bad idea. Remaking a film is tricky territory especially when you're remaking as close to a flawless film as has ever been made in "Brodre", Susanne Bier's Swedish gem from 2004. However, attaching Jim Sheridan as the director made up for those deficits. He's the genius behind such hard-hitting dramas as "My Left Foot", "In the Name of the Father", "The Boxer" and "In America". He knows his way around the complexities of family and a film like "Brothers" definitely needed his sure-handed approach. Unfortunately, the film still feels a little too polished -- a little too Hollywood mainstream for its own good.

We meet the Cahill Family one-by one. Sam (Tobey Maguire) is a captain in the United States Marines and is about to be re-deployed to Afghanistan. His wife, Grace (Natalie Portman), doesn't want him to go but understands why he does. Before he departs, Sam picks his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) up from prison. Tommy has been serving time for armed robbery and is just getting out. Before Sam departs, the family has a bit of a meltdown as the dinner table when Sam and Tommy's father, Hank (Sam Shepard) makes his feelings known about how proud he is of one son and so disappointed in the other. Forward to Afghanistan where Sam's helicopter is shot down. Word hits home that Sam has been killed and Grace must learn to cope with life without her husband, finding solace in the kindness of her brother-in-law, who basically takes over Sam's role.

The film cuts back and forth from stateside to Afghanistan where we learn that Sam is not dead, but has been captured by the Taliban and subjected to terrible acts of torture and punishment. Grace and Tommy develop an odd relationship that is not founded in their love for one another, but rather their mutual love for and grief for Sam. Tommy also begins making headway with his relationship with his father. In Afghanistan, we see just what Sam is prepared to do to make sure that he gets back home to his wife and family.

The problem with "Brothers" is that it is not nearly as gritty as it needs to be. The scenes in Afghanistan lack the raw intensity of scenes we have been used to seeing in films like "Rendition" and "Traitor". It felt like Sheridan was maybe pulled back a little and not given enough free reign to show us what we needed to see. Another problem with the film is that it doesn't spend enough time developing the budding relationship between Grace and Tommy. We see more with Tommy and the kids than anything else. In order for the ending of this film to function as anything other than a necessary end, we have to see that tension and that complexity. I firmly believe this was the result of a fine independent director being somewhat stifled by the mainstream routines.

All of that said, Tobey Maguire is just fantastic and Oscar-worthy in the finest performance of his career. We see a definite change from the man at the beginning of the film to the man at the end. His intensity and raw emotion come through in every scene and we can't help but feel so much empathy for him even when he is doing such insane and unpredictable things. Natalie Portman also delivers another fine performance in a role that could have been reduced to a weepy, redundant waste in the hands of a lesser actress. Portman finds real nuance in her grief and makes it work in every scene. Jake Gyllenhaal has the least to do in the film but finds a nice balance with his character. I maybe wanted to see him given more but this film really does belong to Maguire whom you should expect to see come Oscar nomination time.

On the whole, "Brothers" was a little underwhelming because I expected so much from such a fantastic filmmaker as Sheridan. But it's still a pretty solid effort and will definitely help you shake the Peter Parker image from Maguire for a long time to come. It's worth a visit. 7/10.
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BuryMeAlive #1: BuryMeAlive - added 12/08/2009, 05:01 PM
"Brødre" and Susanne Bier are Danish and not Swedish.... Get it right!
bluemeanie #2: bluemeanie - added 12/22/2009, 04:57 PM
Hmmmm...considering just as much was filmed in Sweden as Denmark, I would say you're a little out of your knowledge base.
BuryMeAlive #3: BuryMeAlive - added 12/28/2009, 08:37 PM
Eh, they speak Danish in the movie, the director Susanne Bier is Danish, the cast are all Danish, and IMDB does not list Sweden as a filming location.

How can it possibly be called Swedish in any shape or form?
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