Review: Brothers

Brothers | Jim Sheridan, 2009

When it comes to war movies, one of the subjects that filmmakers like to explore the  most is the effects the war has on the soldier’s mind. They are rarely done right, but when they are, they are something to behold (the most recent example being The Hurt Locker). Yet, for every one of those there are a few that fail, and Brothers is, sadly, one of those.

In the beginning of Brothers, we see Capt. Cahill (Tobey Maguire) and his wife Grace (Natalie Portman), prepare as he is about to be shipped out to Afghanistan. At the same time, his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) gets out of prison after three years for robbing a bank. So, Sam leaves, but then his hellicopter crashed and everyone thinks he is dead. Everyone mourns, and they try to move on. But wait! Sam survived, but he was captured by the Taliban, and when he is recued and taken back home, he is not the same.

I’ve pretty much summed up the entire movie right there. There are about twenty minutues more after he returns home, but if you’ve seen the trailer you know that there is a meltdown and a few gunshots. But it’s not really worth watching, especially if you’ve seen the trailer because they leave no surprises. Also, the movie its self is a mess.

The story is predictable and goes through every cliché this type of movie has (the daddy issues, etc.). And the dialogue is not very good. Jim Sheridan can be a good director, but his work here leaves much to be desired. Neither one of those two helped me make an emotional connection to the main character, as they should have. Also, it didn’t help that Maguire’s performance was incredibly over the top. He is either smiling or has that “I need to poo” look that many think is serious acting. With that said, there are a few bright spots in this.

Gyllenhaal and Portman do their best with the shallow roles that they are given. Had her character be more developed and emotionally resonant, she would have garnered a lot of praise and awards. Then there are the performances from Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare, which are two of the most natural child that I’ve seen since Catinca Untaru in The Fall. Madison is particularly good as she has the more emotional role of the two, and unlike Maguire, she does make you feel the sadness.

Brothers is a mess of a movie. It is supposed to be an emotional experience, but rather, it left me cold. And that is a damn shame for there were a few worthy performances here.

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