Tuesday, 16 March 2010
FILM REVIEW: BROTHERS
Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the Cahill family black sheep and not surprising given we meet him upon his release from a prison stint for armed robbery. But Tommy has always played second fiddle to his older brother, Sam (Tobey Maguire), the high school footballer who is now a Marine captain and about to be deployed to Afghanistan. He's a hero, as their father (Sam Shepard) keeps reminding Tommy, the implication being that the younger brother is the polar opposite.
But when Sam's helicopter is gunned down and he and a fellow marine are taken prisoner by the Taliban, and his family believe him to be dead, Tommy's long dormant sense of responsibility kicks in. He rebuilds the kitchen of Sam's wife, Grace (Portman), and becomes a strong male presence in his two young nieces lives.
Of course, we know that Sam is alive. We also know what he has to endure in order to make it home, so his strange behaviour – he pulls a gun at the slightest sound, patrolling the backyard at night – upon his return comes as no surprise to us but understandably unnerves his family. Then he accuses Tommy and Grace of having an affair, unable to accept any truth but the one he's constructed in his mind.
A remake of a 2004 Danish film directed by Susanne Bier, which I haven't seen (add it to the list!), Brothers feels like an indie film with too much high-end talent preventing it from being the gritty, psychological drama it aims to be. Not that Gyllenhaal, Maguire and Portman don't give it their best. But I felt something missing from director Jim Sheridan's film which left me slightly underwhelmed.
Still, as an examination of the effects of war on those who experience it first hand and those who have to live with its consequences, Sheridan's Brothers is an admirable effort.
But if there is one thing Sheridan does perfectly, it is cast his child actors. Much like he did with In America (2003), a gem of a film, he has found two little girls (Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare) who perfectly capture the relationship between young sisters and how they relate to the adults in their world. Even if the torment experienced by Maguire's Sam didn't break my heart, these two did.