Release Date (UK) – 22 January 2010
Certificate (UK) – 15
Country – USA
Director – Jim Sheridan
Runtime – 104 mins
Starring – Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman
Brothers is a remake of 2005 Danish film Brødre, and follows exactly the same story of family drama, except its now set in America. Maguire plays U.S. Marine Sam, deployed in Afghanistan whilst his brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal) is the polar opposite – only just released from jail as the film begins. When Sam is killed in Afghanistan Tommy becomes a reformed character; helping out Sam’s widow Grace (Portman) and spending time with his two young nieces. However he grows fond and romantically close to Grace just as they discover that Sam is actually alive as he had been held prisoner in Afghanistan (you may think this is a spoiler but the audience are made aware of Sam’s state much before this point as the narrative flicks between his imprisonment there and his family back home). When Sam returns all hell breaks loose as he is angered at Tommy’s closeness to Grace whilst also suffering from post traumatic stress after his imprisonment.
This is a very slow and over-melodramatic film that isn’t helped by some average performances – Maguire basically plays Sam like a static plank of wood, his early scenes with this family are unconvincing and so devoid of emotion its impossible to believe he loves and cares for them, so later when he is supposedly upset about Tommy replacing him it seem improbable and unsanctioned. Gyllenhaal and Portman are better, but even their brief affection doesn’t ring true as it seems to be based merely on the fact they used to listen to the same song when they were teenagers. The two child actresses as the children are wonderful though, and almost save the film in their emotional performances and reactions to their fathers death. Its also worth looking out for Brit Carey Mulligan (An Education), who goes completely underused in a small part that goes nowhere.
It’s a shame and a blight on Jim Sheridan that this film is so slow and doesn’t achieve any real emotional response such as in his other films like My Left Foot but its not an awful film, simply a poor attempt at what could have been, and was in the original, a serious drama. The unconvincing characters are down not just to poor acting but a flimsy script that lacks authentic motivations – especially in the scenes where Sam is held hostage where the kidnappers seem totally devoid of any logic. This has the effect of hero-ising the US forces by comparison to these seemingly evil and illogical kidnappers, which I’m sure American audiences will lap up but is a questionable idea. This is not a war action film so don’t go to see explosions and war tales, but do go if you like a drama but don’t hold your hopes too high! Watch the trailer below –