Despite knowing the plot basics in advance, one cannot help but feel a sense of foreboding while watching Irish director Jim Sheridan’s latest film "Brothers," which was adapted from a 2004 award-winning Danish movie with the same title.
Brothers examines (but not thoroughly enough) the complexities of family bonds, the relationship of two siblings who are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, and the effects war has on each individual member of a family. Brothers is an oftentimes-tense drama made stronger by the terrific portrayals throughout the 110-minute running time.
The film begins with the introduction of Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), a Marine Corps Captain who is just days away from deploying to Afghanistan for his fourth tour of duty. A devoted family man, Sam lives in a nice suburban home with his high school sweetheart Grace (Natalie Portman) and their two adorable daughters, Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare).
In addition to the apprehension the Cahill’s feel over the latest tour, they also have to deal his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), who was recently released from prison after serving two years for…something that I don’t recall being discussed in the movie. I assume it was robbery. While Sam is the apple of their father’s (Sam Shepard) eye, Tommy is not, which the decorated Vietnam veteran makes abundantly clear during the last family dinner before the deployment.
When in Afghanistan, a transport helicopter carrying Sam and several other Marines comes under heavy fire and crashes to the ground. When Sam is presumed dead, Grace’s world crumbles and his wayward brother has to mature in order to help pick up the pieces. He steps in as a father figure to the young girls, becomes the son his father always wanted him to be, and slowly starts to fall for his brother’s widow. Of course, this tentative new world drastically changes when Sam, who was captured and tortured by the Taliban, comes back into their lives.
I have to give mega props to Tobey Maguire who was absolutely riveting in his role as the tormented husband, Marine and father. His shift from the dopey-happy looks he had at the beginning (often seen in the "Spider-man" movies, which I loved), to the simmer rage he has after he comes home is something to see.
Despite how terrific the acting was in "Brothers," there was something missing within the film. It felt as if it was too edited, like they took out moments of plot development and where emotions should have been amplified, like the scene at the ice rink when Sam confronts Tommy about his feelings for his wife. Then again, we do see lots of emotions during another uncomfortable family dinner, and the scenes afterward.
Even though I don’t think "Brothers" is a great film, I think it is good enough to make you see how it might have been great; or it might make you want to go out and rent the original. B-