Movie Lover reviews: Brothers

By Noor Hidzir JunainiMovies - 22 January 2010 4:00 PM | Updated 25 January 2010

Movie Lover reviews: Brothers

Our Movie Lover contest winner reviews this predictable drama elevated by a stunning Tobey Maguire performance.


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Rating: 3 out of 5

Brothers is a new film by Jim Sheridan, a director who’s no stranger to using grand political backdrops to frame smaller stories of intricate family drama (well, maybe not Get Rich or Die Tryin’).

This isn’t a movie about the war in Afghanistan just like In The Name of The Father was never really about the Northern Irish Troubles.

The film is a remake of a Danish gem entitled Brødre by Susanne Brier that deals with two brothers struggling with the seismic changes in family dynamics that occur when one of them is sent to war. This American variation doesn’t stray too far from its source material.

Tobey Maguire plays a decorated Marine, Sam Cahill, who gets taken prisoner in Afghanistan during his latest tour of duty.

Presumed dead back home, his distraught wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and black sheep ex-con brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhal) form a bond that starts off as platonic pillars of support but eventually evolves into something ambiguously romantic.

Things get obviously, well, awkward, when war-hero Sam is rescued and returns home.  

Sheridan has never exactly been subtle about his subject matter. His films are largely overbearingly heavy-handed and forcefully designed to pack an emotional wallop, which is exactly what Brothers provides.

The characters aren’t entirely original but are given an extra dimension by the exceptional ensemble. Tommy is the prodigal son, Grace is the devoted wife and Sam is the stoic soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder of Taxi Driver proportions.

You can see their character arcs coming a mile away. In fact two chatty ladies (“Urgh”) sitting right behind me practically called every single plot point with astonishing (and annoying) accuracy. “Aiyoh, Tommy so good with the children. They surely fall in love one.”

That doesn’t take anything away from the actors though. When the cast is as off-the-wall spectacular as this one, even maladroit material can be elevated into elegance.

Tobey Maguire throws in a tour-de-force performance as a Marine so scarred from being a POW that he starts acting all creepy (and looking like Kevin from Sin City) in front of his wife and kids.

Gyllenhal and Portman both hold their own admirably with performances that draw you into caring for their characters, despite the fact that you know exactly what’s going to happen.

Even the child actors, Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare, are perfectly natural as Sam’s confused children. Look out for Madison’s showcase scene during a birthday party. In a film filled with intense emotional outbursts, this little girl steals the show.

David Benioff’s script bravely tries to go to some dark The Deer Hunter-esque places but he ends the film disappointingly by going the hopeful Hollywood route, eschewing the sombre poignancy of the original’s conclusion.

About Hidzir Junaini

Hidzir Junaini, aka's Movie Lover, is 23-years-old and is a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for Metrowize Asia.