A psychological study of operations desert shield and desert storm during the gulf war; through the eyes of a U.S marine sniper who struggles to cope with the possibility his girlfriend may be cheating on him back home.
The daughter of a brilliant but mentally disturbed mathematician, recently deceased, tries to come to grips with her possible inheritance: his insanity. Complicating matters are one of her father's ex-students, who wants to search through his papers, and her estranged sister, who shows up to help settle his affairs.
Before leaving on his second tour in Afghanistan, Marine Captain Sam Cahill, a leader, an athlete, a good husband and father, welcomes his screw-up brother Tommy home from prison. He'd robbed a bank. In country, Sam's helicopter is shot down and all are presumed dead. Back home, while Sam wastes away as a prisoner in a remote encampment, Tommy tries to take care of the widow and her two children. While imprisoned, Sam experiences horrors unbearable, so when he's rescued and returns home, he's silent, detached, without affect, and he's convinced his wife and brother have slept together. Demons of war possess him; what will silence them? Written by
Jake Gyllenhaal learned of the death of his close friend and Brokeback Mountain (2005) co-star Heath Ledger while he was in the middle of shooting a scene for this film. Upon hearing the news, Gyllenhaal immediately walked off set, and returned to finish the scene two days later. He then took a longer bereavement leave before he was ready to continue with the rest of his scenes. See more »
When Maggie is painting the kitchen and spills the bin on Sweeney, in one cut the paint is covering all of that portion of his clothes while in the very next there is a spot that shows parts of his shirt. In the very next cut (when he says "lets hug it out") the paint is covering the entire portion again. See more »
Powerful movie, great individual performances, a few flaws
The trio of Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Macguire and Natalie Portman got me very excited for this film, and from an acting standpoint, they did not disappoint. The script gives Macguire the most to work with as the family man/Marine, Sam Cahill, whose latest trip to Afghanistan sees him imprisoned by the Taliban and ultimately returned to America with some serious psychological issues. While he is MIA, his wife, Grace, (Portman) and ex-con brother, Tommy, (Gyllenhaal) are told he is dead, and the two grow closer, eventually verging on emotional and physical attachment.
Ultimately, the movie is an emotional ringer. Sam returns to a family that wants to love him, but his walls are up, he's been through a lot and its his brother the fun loving Uncle Tommy who Sam's children want to play with. A quick note, Sheridan the director makes great use of the two daughters as comic breaks in otherwise terribly tense situations. Our theater was laughing at the kids and it felt to me, as though we needed that laughter to balance out the gloom. There are a few climaxes, some extremely tense family dinners and finally a final gripping scene where Sam is pushed to the brink, he distrusts his wife, assumes his brother is sleeping with her, and no longer can see the humor in his elementary aged children, can he hold on?
Its a touching film and a sad film, but it probably could have been a bit better. The script and title of the film suggest a big tension or interplay between the brothers. I found the brother relationship lacking in substance, and I thought the ingredients for some serious tension and emotional pain were in place but were never put to use. Sam Shepard does well as the Vietnam Vet father, but all he really does is establish his love for his son, the Marine, and his disdain for his son, the ex-con. There was so much more that he could have done, his role seems intentionally diminished. Portman is great as usual, but arguably miscast, as she doesn't belong cast into a film where she is not supposed to think. She's a thinking woman's actress and here she is left observing, we know she knows, but her character must play it clueless.
I cried, and wanted the story to continue, as there seems to be a bit left to this story when the film fades away. Both signs that the movie was enjoyable and touching. The growth of Gyllenhaal as the ex-con who is on the rise, adjusting to life on the outside and acting as a surrogate father in the absence of Macguire is nicely juxtaposed with Macguire's devolution into post-traumatic stress ridden torment. Watch the Oscar nods roll in, but I think, if anything, the movie may win individual awards, as the product as a whole falls quite a bit short of award winning status.
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