“Brothers” is a simple but effective drama, and I liked it. There didn’t seem to be any effort to turn this into an obstacle course of plot-twists and outrageous character developments, opting instead for a steady and smooth diet of good acting and even performances. Director Jim Sheridan reveals once again he’s a very capable dramatist, so hopefully he won’t do any more 50 Cent flicks.
Why you’ll like this:
You enjoy drama, and are a fan of any of these actors.
“Brothers” centers on the family of Captain Sam Cahill, played by Tobey Maguire, and his wife Grace (Portman) and recently incarcerated brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal). Captain Cahill is deployed to Afghanistan where his chopper is gunned down and he is declared a casualty, devastating his family back home. Tommy, ever the screw up, finds a role and uplifting purpose in being there for the wife and children of his deceased brother…until his brother is discovered to be alive.
While there’s three big names involved in Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire, I would consider Portman to be the only true heavy hitter when it comes to acting chops, even though Gyllenhaal has certainly had some memorable performances, Portman is the upper class of this batch. However, after watching them all perform I can’t say that they didn’t all prove their worth, but one performance was head and shoulders above the rest, Bailee Madison (playing the daughter “Isabelle”) was absolutely a thrill to watch. She had me locked in, and I would dare say she made the movie possible, watch out for this girl, she’ll have us all eating out of the palm of her hand for as long as she wishes to continue acting.
The simplistic story never felt in danger of losing my interest, the characters were so well played, but even the cliche conflicts were nailed about as well as one could hope. I was also a fan of how organic all the conflicts came about, nothing at all felt forced about the narrative which is often the trickiest part of helming a drama, because it’s so easy to slip into TV dramatics and just have characters start yelling out their feelings, but here was a great display of allowing the emotions to simmer and pop, arising from unexpected places.
Why you won’t like this:
This is a pure drama, minimal war action though one of the characters is depicted at war.
If “Brothers” stays on my mind, it’ll be mostly because of how relatable the material is. War is ugly, its affect on people is one of the many tragedies and watching people disintegrate from loving humans to detached shells is gripping, but not necessarily from an entertaining point of view, rather the humanity we know of ourselves and see how this could happen to our own loved ones. A worthy watch, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire, Bailee Madison
Director: Jim Sheridan
Rating: R (language and violence)
Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Release Date: December 4, 2009