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Review: Brothers

Brothers
12.03.2009
5 10

PLOT: When Capt. Sam Cahill returns to the war in Afghanistan, he leaves his wife Grace and his children behind. He also leaves his criminal brother Tommy, who is having issues with their father. But when Sam is thought to be dead, Tommy steps up and begins to help Grace with the house, hoping to deal with both of their loss. Happily, Sam is not dead and he returns battered and bruised, but alive. Yet his return is only after he has suffered some painful experiences. And once he is back, he suffers from guilt, anger, sadness and paranoia, leaving his family broken and afraid.

REVIEW:Jim Sheridan’s BROTHERS is not what you might expect. This story of two brothers, one a war hero and the other a criminal, is not at all a love triangle as the advertising would suggest. Maybe it seems like it would attract a larger box office number if it was some sort of romantic thriller, which they appear to want the audience to believe it is. But really what Brothers is about is human frailty, and it really is a slightly better movie for it. I did say “slightly”. What we have here is a story of how the war can affect a family, and how the two brothers find themselves changing roles. We see the darkness and the horrors of war as Capt. Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) returns to Afghanistan, leaving his family in fear of losing their father. And when his helicopter is shot down, Sam’s wife Grace (Natalie Portman) is faced with raising her children alone, that is until Sam’s brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) lends a hand.

This remake of the award winning Danish film BRODRE, directed by Susanne Bier, is thankfully not the over dramatized tale Hollywood might have made. This is in many ways, a war film and not a love story. But sadly, this remake is nowhere near as poignant as the original was. While Susanne Bier’s vision created a very moving story with a strong trio of actors (Connie Nielsen, Ulrich Thomsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas), here we are offered Maguire and Gyllenhaal as the two siblings. While I have certainly liked both of their work in the past, neither of them feel like they are the right fit for the roles. Both of these fine gentlemen just seemed too young and not nearly as weighed down with issues as they should. With Maguire and Portman, there is very little chemistry as the father grows distant to his wife and children due to his suffering in Afghanistan, I didn’t feel much of anything for those involved. I did however like Portman, as she seemed a tad more comfortable in her skin, and she did share some nice scenes with Gyllenhaal. But her performance is nowhere near as memorable as Nielsen in the Danish film.

Another problem that I had with Brothers is the fact that this is almost a scene for scene remake of the original. There is nothing fresh or new here, it is simply the same story, with only a couple of minor tweaks. But it really lacked the impact of the original. I watched Brodre after seeing Sheridan’s vision, and even knowing exactly what would happen, I was still moved. There is an intensity that is missing from the new film. Perhaps it is cultural, as Sheridan’s film seems almost too clean cut. But I will give him this, it is nothing like the advertising makes it look. Since it is basically the same film as Biers, they didn’t try and shove a romantic triangle down our throats. But after watching the latest commercial for it, they seem to be really pushing this storyline that barely exists. As I mentioned, this is about war and the impact it has on a family, it is just too bad that originality is nowhere to be found.

Sure the two male leads didn’t feel right for the brothers, and it was a little too close to the original film, but it certainly isn’t bad. Some of the supporting roles are quite terrific, especially the parents. Both Sam Shepard and Mare Winningham are terrific and very believable. Shepherd is especially good as the dad who plays favorites and drinks too much, even when it feels cliché. It was also nice to see the always reliable Clifton Collins Jr. show up for a few minutes. Again, the supporting cast is very good. For audiences that haven’t see the original, I’m certain many will be touched by this as it is a very powerful story. The sequences that take place in Afghanistan are extremely tense and disturbing. This is a scary situation that is all too real. But, again, the passion of the original film is diluted here. Director Jim Sheridan does a decent job recreating the drama, but it could’ve used a couple of different casting choices and a little bit more heart. I sort of liked Brothers, but it is ultimately an unnecessary remake to a truly captivating film.

My rating 5.5/10 -- JimmyO
Source: JoBlo.com

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