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What drew me to this movie was the cast of Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie
Portman, two phenomenal actors in their own regards. The only
expectation that I had going into see this film was that I would be
unimpressed by Tobey Maguire. Having seen him in several films
(including Spider-Man), I must say that I wasn't prepared for the
incredible performance he provided.
This movie was very simplistic. Nothing flashy, no real special effects, small amounts of simple guitar music as a soundtrack. But it conveyed a whole roller coaster of emotions from the beginning. The growth of Jake Gyllenhaal's character, the anguish displayed by Natalie Portman, the palpable pain and suffering by Tobey Maguire, and the fear and anger displayed by the eight-year-old Bailee Madison all combine for a very gripping tale.
Many regard this movie as anti-war. I simply do not see it as such. Soldiers are praised for their heroism on the battlefield (which they completely deserve), but all too often the wounds they suffer physically and mentally are disregarded. This movie illustrates the very real problem of the mental health of our service men and women, and the problems it causes in family dynamics.
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
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.
Two brothers, one returning from prison, one heading as a Marine to
This film is apparently a remake of a Danish film that had the same story line.
But it didn't have Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal! Maguire reaches into the darkest corners of his soul to flesh out the good brother, the Marine, who returns from Afghanistan with a staggering burden of guilt.
Gyllenhaal is amazing, transforming an angry, unsure ex-con into a believable figure of redemption, slowly growing before our eyes as the story unfolds.
Natalie Portman is excellent and look for Carey Mulligan's four minutes of screen time.
This is not an anti-war film except in the sense that any film that shows war either glorifies it unrealistically or jars us into questioning, if it is realistic. The scenes in Afghanistan seem authentic. The tortures are not so so graphic as some of the other reviews imply. They will cause you to wince, but its good film making, not microscopic detail.
I want to search out Susanne Bier's 2005 film "Broedre"--it can't lessen the impact of this one, however.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was not looking forward to this film (another anti-military anti-war film) but this is none of that! It is a wonderful story of people and their relationships and emotions. The story is beautifully told and the cast is uniformly wonderful although it seemed at first the brothers might better have switched parts but as the plot unfolds the casting is perfect. The plot: In a family of a retired Marine Sgt (Sam Shepard) there are two sons (Toby Maguire) an active duty Captain and a Ex con wastrel (Jake Guillenhaal) who gets out of prison as his brother is about to return to the war in Afghanistan. When his brother is lost in Afghanistan the brother slowing steps up to support the wife and two girls. When Maguire Is found alive months later the dynamic of the family is greatly changed as the whole family works out the complications of their lives. This is one of the best pictures of the year, dramatic, involving, with good dialog and scene; and the actors and director play them to the hilt.
Brothers is a decent movie showing the trauma both a soldier and his
family face due to Tobey Maguire's "job" as a marine. Although the
script could have been improved and more drama could have been added
throughout the movie, the actors in Brothers deliver superbly.
Tobey Maguire is rumored to be mentioned at the Oscars and his performance probably deserves it, especially during his "break down" scene. Natalie Portman as the wife and Sam Shepard acting as the father also deliver plausible and emotional performances. Carey Mulligain, who I almost did not recognise, plays a cameo role and Clifton Collins Jnr also makes a brief appearance.
If you haven't watched the trailer for this film, do not watch it as it gives much away. Also, do not read about this movie much before you watch it either. The less you know about Brothers, the better its plot will unfold.
I also must point out that although Tobey Maguire is the one with the Golden Globe nomination and rumoured Oscar nomination, Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a much more subtle, and on the whole, a better performance than Tobey. He seemed to connect me more to his character with some comedic lines, gentle eyes and genuine acts of redemption. I rate Brothers one star higher because of Jake and if it were up to me, he'd get a supporting actor nomination.
Don't expect a masterpiece like The Deer Hunter, but if you're looking for some new, depressive entertainment, then Brothers is a good flick...It had potential and it delivered on most of it; however, some potential was also left unaccounted for.
Based on the Danish film, Brødre, Tobey Maguire plays Sam Cahill, a
marine who goes off to Afghanistan and allegedly is killed in action.
His brother Tommy, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, an ex-con, winds up
looking after Sam's wife, Grace (Natalie Portman) and her daughters. As
the story moves on, Tommy's negative attitude toward her and his
outlook changes and their relationship develops. When Sam, who is found
to be alive, returns home, there's a mixture of both joy and resentment
among the characters, but to add, Sam has returned a changed and
The film mainly focuses on the family drama and relationships of the characters, inter-cut with scenes of Sam in action and imprisoned/tortured in Afghanistan. The progression of the plot takes its time to develop, but it feels organic. The characters feel real. While one could see the film as a criticism of war and the negative effects that war has on the family of veterans, the film is more a character-driven drama, and doesn't touch much into politics.
Admittedly, the plot itself isn't anything drastically new and one may imagine a plot like this in a made-for-TV drama if not for the emotional depth, intensity, and solid performances from Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Natalie Portman. One of the interesting plot points involve the brothers' father's (in a fine performance from Sam Shepard) favoritism for Sam, while looking down on Tommy as the "failure." The love/hate dynamics between the three are interesting and believable even as the two brothers go through drastic character changes.
Tobey Maguire's performance is particularly noteworthy as Sam, a marine and a loving husband who comes back transformed into a physically emaciated, psychologically-scarred, ticking time bomb. My image of Tobey as Spider-Man now feels like a distant memory especially in comparison to what he portrays here. The two children who play the two daughters of Sam in this film give very natural performances in their varied reactions to difficult situations around them. Jake Gyllenhaal does strong work as Tommy, whose character transformation makes us want to root for him, despite his shady beginnings and flaws. To top off, Natalie Portman is radiant here, turning in a poignant, complex performance as a mother of two, who must deal with the initial mourning of her husband, the joy of his return, and the messy aftermath. Ultimately, her nuanced performance is the glue that holds the film together and make the other characters matter, and one can't help but marvel at the maturity of her performance.
Directed by Jim Sheridan (The Boxer), this film is a great showcase for all performances involved, while portraying an engaging, intense story about familial loyalty, redemption, and difficult relationships. In the wrong hands, this film could've gone the route of the by-the-numbers Hollywood cliché, but as it is, it remains a solid drama. I give Brothers *** out of **** stars.
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Brothers is something we may have seen before - if not in its original
incarnation from Denmark in 2004 then The Deer Hunter - then it is
something that surprises just on the vulnerability, subtlety and
ferocity of the actors in their roles. It's not about what the trailer
pushes, which is an affair between a guy (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his
sister in law (Natalie Portman) while the one guy's brother (Tobey
Maguire) is away at war. There is one scene of that, but that's not
really what the film is 'about' per-say. It's about the personal
affects of war on one man, a horrific tragedy that befalls him, and how
he has to live with that the rest of his life, specifically in front of
his wife and children. Maguire's Sam says it simply towards the end:
"Only the dead see the end of war. I have seen the end of War. How do I
go on living?"
If I may have spoiled the message of the movie- and in its own microcosm way it's as anti-war (or perhaps just anti-torture) as it could get in modern movies- it shouldn't detract from the pleasures of Brothers. This is seeing the actors- Portman, Gyllenhaal, Sam Shephard, especially Maguire- fill in these characters with enough depth and passions and fears and desires and ghosts that make them more than real to us. That's not just their achievement but director Jim Sheridan's. He lets his players breathe life into characters who, while not wooden or two-dimensional by any stretch, need that extra push as seen in David Benioff's characterizations and scenarios. Family life, its fragility and it's equal amount of love and self-torment, is what counts (again, Deer Hunter), and it's this that works in the film.
A word though about Tobey Maguire. I'm not the only critic pointing him out, and it goes without saying he's not the only worthwhile actor in the cast (there's even performances by the girls playing Sam's kids that are extraordinary). But it's the transformation that really counts. Perhaps it's noteworthy that both brothers do transform in the film, as Tommy, the ex-con, goes from being a drunken nobody to stepping up to help his brother's barely-holding-it-together wife after the news that her husband is dead, while Sam is in the downward spiral. It's crucial too that Sheridan shows those scenes in Afghanistan that cause Sam to change so radically as he does (the way they're inter-cut in the at-home narrative is a little uneasy, one of the flaws of the film), so that we see a good person shrunk down to his deepest, darkest depths.
When that last third comes around, it's electrifying how intense Maguire can get, even when he's just in his insinuating mode ala Jake LaMotta of accusing his brother of adultery. For anyone just looking at Maguire as Spider-Man's Peter Parker must give this a look to see his range; indeed a double feature of Brothers and Seabiscuit will show how Maguire is one of the most underrated actors under forty in Hollywood. If the role calls for it, as it does here, he goes to town, a you-can't-blame-him Oscar bait performance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The family man Marine Captain Sam Cahil (Tobey Maguire) is happily
married with his beloved Grace (Natalie Portman) and adores his two
daughters Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare). His
younger brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) has just left prison on
probation for bank robbery and has issues with his father Hank (Sam
Shepard). Grace does not like him either but Sam invites Tommy to have
dinner at home with their family. When Sam is sent back to Afghanistan,
his helicopter crashes and he is considered missing in action and
presumed dead. However, he is captured with friend Private Joe Willis
(Patrick Flueger) and they are submitted to all sort of tortures,
culminating with Sam killing Joe with a bar. Meanwhile Tommy comforts
Grace and the children and he becomes close to Sam's family. When Sam
is rescued by the American soldiers, he comes back home completely
paranoid, psychotic, introspective and without feeling or affection for
his family. Further, he is convinced that Grace and Tommy have had sex
during his absence. When Isabelle lies during a family dinner about the
relationship of Grace and Tommy to upset her father, the disturbed Sam
triggers an intense paranoia jeopardizing his family, Tommy and
"Brothers" is a powerful drama about family dynamics destroyed by war. I discover that this good movie is based on Susanne Bier's "Brødre" that I have not seen yet. Jim Sheridan shows again his ability to work with children, the same way he did in "In America" and the girls Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare have awesome performances. Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Sam Shepard have top-notch performances, giving credibility to the story. Now I expect to see the original Danish movie to compare with the American version. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Entre Irmãos" ("Between Brothers")
Revised review after watching "Brødre":
"Brothers" is actually a teen remake of "Brødre". Tobey Maguire is completely miscast in the role of a marine captain despite his great performance. In the original movie, Ulrich Thomsen is a mature man with face of man in the role of a major, and not a "babyface" in the role of a captain. Jim Sheridan filmed practically frame by frame the film of Susanne Bier, but replacing adult and realistic situations with shallow trivializations to adequate the story to the American society. In his version, just as an example, Grace and Tommy smoke marijuana when they kiss each other instead of the emotional situation of the original story. Or the motive why Sam is forced by his captors to kill Joe Willis in the Afghan camp. The open conclusion in the original movie is another plus. The impact of "Brothers" is totally different for those that have not seen "Brødre" My vote is six.
Just OK. Very well acted particularly by Gyllenhaal, Portman, and the
two young 'uns, and a compelling tale of how war can mess up a family,
but a little too melodramatic to hold much power for me.
There's also the misjudged Afghan side story, which is populated by cartoon characters. It might have worked better had we been kept completely in the dark as to the soldier's fate, to be put in the same position as the wife and brother. As it is we are simply sitting waiting for his inevitable (rather than hoped-for) return and we know any emotional investment during this buildup will be wasted. It feels almost tacked on - did they need to give Maguire more to do? He's the best I've ever seen him btw, but I didn't find him as convincing as the other two leads who had a more nuanced story to work with.
"Brothers" is an American remake of an excellent Danish drama from
2004. As the title suggests, the story centers on two male siblings who
are essentially polar opposites of one another. Sam (Tobey Maguire) is
an upright family man and lifelong Marine who has already served one
tour in Afghanistan and is all set to embark on a second. Tommy (Jake
Gyllenhaal) is a ne'er-do-well ex-con who's released from prison on the
very same week Sam is being re-deployed to the battlefield, leaving a
wife (Natalie Portman) and two young daughters (the delightful Bailee
Madison and Taylor Grace Geare) behind at home. When news comes that
Sam has been killed in a helicopter crash, Tommy is there to help pick
up the pieces, leading to some potential romantic complications between
him and his brother's grieving widow, Grace. But that turns out to be
only half the story, as anyone familiar with the Danish version already
Written by David Benioff and directed by Jim Sheridan, "Brothers" follows the original fairly closely in terms of outline and incident, focusing on one man's attempts to turn his life around after making a mess of things, and another's efforts to come to terms with an action he performed under duress that his conscience will clearly never allow him to live with. The complex relationships among the three principal players - along with Sam's Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - are dealt with in an adult and thoughtful fashion, with a minimum of melodrama and nary a hint of sensationalism. The conflicts are further exacerbated by the men's father (Sam Shepherd), a hardnosed Vietnam vet whose personal preference for Sam over Tommy has been evident to both boys from very early on in their lives.
"Brothers" reveals its European roots in its more deliberate pacing, its emotional complexity, its lack of judgment towards its characters, and its willingness to leave some loose ends hanging at the end. Maguire and Gyllenhaal are both excellent as the two torn brothers trying to stay close despite their differences - as are Portman, Shepherd and Mare Winningham as the boys' loving and conciliatory step mom whose calming influence over her husband goes a long way towards ameliorating some otherwise potentially volatile situations.
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