Brothers is a 2009 American-British drama-war-thriller film directed by Jim Sheridan. The film is a remake of 2004 Danish film Brødre directed by Susanne Bier. Both films take inspiration from Homer's epic poem The Odyssey.
The film follows Sam (played by Tobey Maguire), a Marine captain, and bad-boy Tommy Cahill (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who are brothers. We meet Tommy as he is released from jail for armed robbery, and we soon see Sam embarking on his fourth tour of duty to Afghanistan, leaving behind his high school sweetheart, Grace (Natalie Portman), and their two young daughters.
Tommy’s family soon receive news of Tommy’s death. In Tommy’s absence, his brother Sam supports Tommy’s wife and children in their collective grief. However, when Tommy unexpectedly returns home very much alive, whackiness ensues.
There are great performances all round in the movie, although admittedly it is a little odd to see such young looking actors in parent roles with young children.
The casting for Tobey and Jake is very good. The audience really does feel Tobey’s character’s sense of mental trauma, and we expect him to lose control at any moment. We, like the family depicted, feel at ease with Jake’s character on screen and miss him when he is absent. As a reformed bad-boy trying to-make-good to the family that he has let down in the past, you can understand why the bad-boy is so attractive.
One could argue that Natalie’s emotional response to hearing prematurely of her husband’s death as being a tad too understated, however, this could just be the actor’s choice as the character would have undoubtedly have been prepared for receiving such inevitable news from past tours.
The only real letdown was the redundant narration at film’s end which annoyed an otherwise subtle and emotional revelation.
The director for the remake decided to make the film more about the brother’s relationship with each other then the emotional attraction to Tommy’s wife. This is a good move as it keeps a clear focus of the film’s intent.
One may argue that this was again an exercise whereby Hollywood again ‘ruined a fine movie’. I prefer the wording of the remake’s writer; that he and the director had discovered the ‘bones’ of a great story. Certain characters have had their backgrounds more fleshed out, giving their entwining familial relationships more weight. A bigger budget has given the film a more cinematic style and attracted a beautiful score and, of course, a swath of young, good looking stars.
Brothers is a very satisfying film. Toby Maguire has done a fine job portraying a stable family man who suffers trauma as a result of his experiences in war. This was a much more satisfying study of the psychological effects of war on soldiers and their families than The Hurt Locker as previously discussed on the Movie Club.
I loved Jake Gyllenhall’s character and could completely understand the attraction that Tommy’s family had for him during such an emotionally vulnerable time.
The lead character’s intertwined past with their marine father is completely relate-able and understandable. The story served as a foreboding parallel of what happened during the brother’s early family years with a father who had returned from Vietnam.
Apart from the unnecessary short narration at film’s end, Brothers is a solid movie viewing experience.
4 brothers out of 5
Luke McWilliams August 2010