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a triumph of acting over story
Quinoa198410 December 2009
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.
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'Brothers' showcases strong, solid performances
d_art23 February 2010
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 psychologically-damaged man.

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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some great acting
SnoopyStyle14 November 2016
Marine Capt. Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) is going to Afganistan on another tour leaving behind his wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and their two young daughters. He picks up his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) getting out of prison after serving his time for armed robbery. The family gathers for a dinner before Sam leaves. Tommy fights with their military father Hank (Sam Shepard). The family is stunned when Sam is reported killed in a helicopter crash. In reality, he's been captured by the Taliban along with Private Joe Willis. At home, Tommy cleans up his act while getting closer to Grace. Captivity turns horrific and when Sam is rescued, he returns home psychologically damaged.

This cast is stacked and they all bring it. Director Jim Sheridan is able to nurture some amazing work especially from Tobey Maguire. Portman, Gyllenhaal, Shepard, and even little Bailee Madison show their acting muscles. The story does feel a little melodramatic like a broad Greek tragedy. That's par for the course. This is big time acting.
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Powerful movie, great individual performances, a few flaws
ericjams5 December 2009
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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a generally faithful remake of the Danish original
Buddy-5122 August 2010
"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 knows.

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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A decent movie
warthogjump12 January 2010
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.
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Loyalty, love, faithfulness, duty, pain, grief. Well above average but not outstanding
cl77716 February 2010
Brothers, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire, is an interesting and profound drama about family values, war, and relationships. The acting is fantastic. I had hardly heard of this movie despite its all star cast so it was a pleasant surprise for me.

As the title implies, it is about two brothers, portrayed by Gyllenhaal and Maguire, whose lives have taken them to different sides of the tracks- Jake's character has recently been released from jail and Tobey is a devoted family and army man. Natalie Portman plays his lovely wife. When Tobey is sent away to Afghanistan and rapidly presumed dead, the plot thickens.

Back at home, with everybody trying to cope and go on with their lives, nothing will ever be the same. I will not write any more on the subject because although I found what happens next very predictable, you should still guess for yourselves.

The entire cast plays superbly. Tobey undergoes a massive physical transformation and looks completely emaciated as he depicts the mental decline of someone who has lived through too much horror. He shows us the mental destruction caused by war and his metamorphosis is truly scary at times. Jake is really excellent as his sincere brother, torn between passion and brotherly love, guilt and devotion. The two young girls who play Tobey and Natalie's daughters were very impressive and are earning lots of praise.

The supporting characters are less developed and the father seems to have just two states of emotion- praise and admiration for his army son and disdain for the ex-convict. This is the downside that I saw in Brothers- that it tended to oversimplify many issues and too often contented itself with merely scratching the surface. For instance, though I have never been in a war so I cannot say for sure, the Taliban scenes seemed fake to me.

Loyalty, love, faithfulness, duty, pain, grief, sorrow, joy. All of these are present in this well above average but not outstanding film.

My rating: 8 Fabio's: 7.5 Total score: 15.5 Please read more reviews at
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A Nutshell Review: Brothers
DICK STEEL23 January 2010
A remake of the Danish film Brodre, what this version boasts is the star presence of Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal as the titular brothers Sam and Tommy Cahill, with Natalie Portman starring as the former's wife Grace, in what would be some powerful dramatic performances delivered by all three actors in a story that deals with the pain of loss, the exhilaration of purpose, love and family, and the confusion that comes when jealousy starts to creep in a relationship no thanks to the presence of another man in one's home.

Tobey Maguire plays Captain Sam Cahill, who is bidding his family of wife Grace and kids Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare) farewell before he ships out for his tour of duty in Afghanistan. A well respected Marine, he's actually looking forward to this return to the war zone (talk about that addiction to war last seen in The Hurt Locker) to fulfil his belief in the fight for freedom to keep America safe, and is the pride of his parents Hank (Sam Shepard) and Elsie (Mare Winningham) as compared to his good for nothing brother Tommy who's just released from prison, and bumming around to find what he could do when he's out in society.

Then comes the tragic news that Sam's Blackhawk helicopter went crashing down into a river, and the devastation that event had on the surviving family members. This of course provided director Jim Sheridan to cover some pseudo-Afghanistan war scenes and making some statements about the war on terror, but also allowed for Portman and Shepard to showcase their acting chops, in particular Portman as you can feel that level of pain with the sudden cutting short of a young person's life, and of course the reverse when excellent, unbelievable news came her way.

Brothers is an excellent character study piece which both Maguire and Gyllenhaal fleshed out their roles in stark contrast toward each other and the drawing of parallels in their characters as the film progressed. One's calm and collected, but affected by recent experiences in guilt and blame to finally explode in "Bale Out" style, while the other's laissez-faire approach to life suddenly found some purpose when he subconsciously took it upon himself to look after his brother's family, so much so that it borders extremely close to that of being a surrogate husband and substitute father figure, yet endearing himself to the family as he grows into a better, likable person. It is this constant, tense "will he or won't he" questioning that will keep you engaged in the film, and then again with the pivotal turning point that will introduce elements of jealousy and needless suspicion into a relationship.

There are plenty of memorable scenes in this film, which I thought made it stand out amongst the crowd. One involves all the principal characters gathering over the dinner table in conversation, and the dynamics of everything, and I mean everything, was magic, from how the scene was shot, edited and especially down to the roles that the kids play, with kids Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare almost always stealing the thunder from the veteran actors with their antics.

Granted that the assumption of death and how it screws up a relationship is nothing new (heck, even Michael Bay found time to squeeze it into his action packed Pearl Harbor), it boiled down to the excellent performances all round to deliver an emotionally powerful film. You'll feel that intense fury and worry when the film hits its crescendo, and for that alone it's worth the price of an admission ticket. Highly recommended!
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Did anyone know that Tobey could act?
sclark-4112 December 2009
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.
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Guilt and Forgiveness
bobt1454 December 2009
Two brothers, one returning from prison, one heading as a Marine to Afghanistan.

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.
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PTSD is a real thing.
rukstar6914 December 2019
I see a lot of people really disliked this film but I thought it was pretty decent. I guess it can move a tad slow but the story needs time to develop.

A United States Marine returns home from Afghanistan with PTSD and thinks his Brother is sleeping with his wife and moving in on his family. Then the crap starts to hit the fan.

The acting by the 3 leads in excellent. Jake Gyllenhaal (Tommy) Natalie Portman (Grace) and Toby Maguire (Capt. Sam Cahill) Toby really kills his part....Excellent.

All in all I think this is a very well done Film.
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Comment through stereotypisation
p-stepien21 September 2012
After an Afghanistan mission gone awry Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) is captured by enemy Taliban forces, while the US Army believes him dead. Back home Grace (Natalie Portman) tries to cope with the loss of her husband and ease the pain it brought about to her two girls: Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare). While Sam's brother, ex-convict Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), decides to comfort Grace, slowly and unintentionally the two fall for each other. After Sam is recovered from capture the would-be widow and the prodigal son must now cope with the conflicting feelings as well as the remnants of a man, that returned from Afghanistan.

"Brothers" is extremely poorly scripted, so having not seen the original version, it is hard to place blame on either Bier or Benioff as to where the responsibility lies. However certain similarities between this movie and "Haevnen" seem to point to culpability on both persons. As in the Oscar winning "Haevnen" foreign countries are used instrumentally as a plot device, nurturing all the worst stereotypes necessary in order to deliver some context for what happens in the 'civilized world'. This in itself is pretty appalling with Afghans unanimously portrayed as spineless despicable torturers and murderers, just so that Sam can have appropriate trauma after returning to the States. This essentially cause the whole foreign content of the movie to be tiresome, obtrusive and severely flawed, while at the same time not visibly most scenes not serving much purpose (the whole captured events are overdrawn and pointless and could have been sufficiently supplanted with one-two nicely constructed scenes).

What goes on in the States is an equally frustrating watch with trivial and shallow interactions predominant, so despite best intentions by Gyllenhaal and Portman the predominant soap quality of dialogue disrupt build-up. For what seems a Benioff retcon the two never actually sleep together, just exchange a single kiss, but still seem unable to discuss this with Sam on his return, while Isabelle explicitly uses lies about sexual relations between Grace and Tommy to vent frustration. There is however still one poignant culmination scene during Maggie's birthday, rife with emotions, context, acting, dynamics and tension, that makes the movie worth a watch. The promise suggested by that scene alone does also inspire to check out the original Danish movie for comparison and maybe watching a piece, which actually delivers on its promise.
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Kunzersteven30 December 2019
When I first saw Jake Gyllenhaal's movies he reminded of Tobey Maguire. The casting of them as brothers in 'Brothers' had to happen. I am glad that this opportunity wasn't wasted either. I have had quite a bit of freetime over the last months as I moved and have watched movie after movie. This is one of the most powerful stories, the emotion built up and the performances by everyone involved is the type of thing that stays with you. 10/10
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For the Love of Grace
ferguson-66 December 2009
Greetings again from the darkness. Have long admired director Jim Sheridan's work in such fine films as My Left Foot and the absolute must-see In America. He has a real knack for connecting with the characters and creating a sense of reality. Sadly, this one just doesn't measure up due to the script, the score and the limitations of Tobey Maguire.

The basic story is a terrific foundation, but the lousy dialogue and stereotypes just cut this one off at the knees. While the trailer presents this as an extremely intense, emotional story, the finished product is little more than a predictable disappointment with Tobey Maguire sporting bug eyes as he loses his grip.

Jake Gyllenhaal's character could have been much better developed and I believe more interaction between he and Maguire would have helped ... and I don't mean another scene of either one of them saying "You're my brother". We get that part already. Sam Shepard delivers another of his rare, fine performances as the dad (former military) who seems to connect with his granddaughters and a flask better than his own blood.

In case you are wondering, Natalie Portman is beautiful. There are at least two scenes where the characters tell us that ... again, in case you didn't know. Her limitations are just as obvious as Tobey, and the ridiculous, extended shot of her through the kitchen window would have worked as a head shot, but seems totally out of place in the movie.

Other than a brief turn from Carey Mulligan (fascinating in this year's An Education), the best thing about the film is Bailee Madison, who plays the eldest daughter. Her range is exceptional. Whether she is backing away in fright from her dad or defiantly squeaking a balloon at the dinner table, she is a master of the moment and something to behold.

Sorry, I don't have much positive to say about this one, but I do believe it could have been much better with some script polishing and a replacement for Maguire.
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Earnest but perhaps trying a little too hard
mdh31018 December 2009
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.
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Solid but not entirely necessary remake
MaxBorg8927 March 2010
Of all the remakes being spawned by Hollywood, Brothers is perhaps the least infuriating on paper: after all, the original Danish film tackled a very American subject, namely war, and told a story that works in pretty much any language. In addition, the US version benefits from a good director (Jim Sheridan, recovering from Get Rich or Die Trying'), a reliable screenwriter (David Benioff) and a solid cast. Not enough to improve on the prototype, but still a solid effort.

The script is basically the original translated in English: Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), loving husband and father, is going to Afghanistan on a mission. When he's reported dead (his team disappeared and no bodies were found), his wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and his two daughters receive support from an unlikely source: Sam's younger brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), freshly out of jail and looking for a way to prove himself worthy of the family's trust. Soon, emotions get complicated between him and Grace, a problem that gets even more serious once Sam is revealed to be alive and comes back home.

Benioff's take on Susanne Bier's tale of brotherly love follows the blueprint quite closely, but adds another layer of subtext that makes the picture more American: given the rigorous, almost religious connotations the army, and especially the Marines, can have in the US (see Full Metal Jacket and A Few Good Men), not to mention the tradition of sons taking after their fathers, a different back-story explaining the troubled relationship between the Cahill boys and their veteran father (Sam Shepard) is a welcome modification. Less successful, on the other hand, is Sheridan's decision to give the film a more "cinematic" look, ditching the hand-held style that made the Danish counterpart more realistically affecting. Granted, it would have looked like a shot-for-shot remake, but the subject's poignancy suffers as a result.

Another problem, perhaps even more serious, is the age of the three stars: being between ten and fifteen years younger than their Danish equivalents, Maguire, Portman and Gyllenhaal deliver solid, compelling performances (Maguire in particular is miles away from Spider-Man's blockbuster territory), but almost always look too young to convince as a family torn apart by war (and frankly, it's hard to buy Sam and Grace as parents of two seven-year old girls). Amusingly, this is referenced in the screenplay, when Sam, sensing that things have changed, describes his wife and brother as "two teenagers in love" (in fairness, though, that line, like much of the dialogue, is taken verbatim from the original).

In short, Brothers is a worthy showcase of its cast's acting talents (alongside the leads, Carey Mulligan does wonders with what is basically a throwaway cameo) and a reasonably strong reflection on the consequences of war, but it pales next to the superior European version.
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Good anti war message but unconvincing story
phd_travel22 February 2012
This well intentioned war movie has some good points and bad points.

The anti war message is well delivered. The effect on his children and the soldier himself is quite effective. The captivity in Afghanistan was quite tense. Jake and Tobey (the soldier) play the brothers and Natalie plays Tobey's wife.

What wasn't convincing was Tobey's reaction of jealousy towards his brother and the rather formula way things played out at the end. It was melodramatic and contrived. The almost romance between Natalie & Jake was predictable.

The acting is okay. Tobey is better than expected in the dramatic scenes. THough he seems an odd choice to play an officer. Jake is alright. Natalie is a bit miscast. A bit out of place and sophisticated as an army wife. Should have chosen someone more down to earth looking. Bailee Madison as the cute daughter is adorable but her climactic outburst is too over the top for the story.

Overall not a pleasant movie but worth 1 watch if you are a fan of the actors.
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commendable siblings
lee_eisenberg8 July 2010
Jim Sheridan's "Brothers" casts Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal as siblings Sam and Tommy, who have ended up the opposite of each other. Sam is a captain in the marines, about to get shipped to Afghanistan. Tommy is the black sheep. But when Sam's helicopter crashes and he is presumed dead, Tommy moves in with Sam's wife Grace (Natalie Portman), forcing both to take a new look at their lives.

I've never seen the Danish film on which this was based, but I do think that this one was worth seeing. It's sort of a "Coming Home" for the 21st century, although not in the same league as "Coming Home" or "Apocalypse Now". The particularly chilling scenes take place in the second half of the movie. Seriously, some of them made me feel as though I had just stopped breathing.

So, while this isn't a masterpiece, I still think that it's a movie that everyone should see. Mind you, there are some really unpleasant scenes.

Also starring Sam Shepard, Mare Winningham, Carey Mulligan and Clifton Collins Jr.
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it was ok
watcher201922 April 2021
No big story here. Same old same old. It whiled away and hour and 30 mins. If you dont have much else to do give it a watch. I did think that tobey was totally miscast in this.
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pepekwa4 November 2010
I'm a big fan of Jim Sheridan films, and this had a superb cast so expectations were high for this movie. Unfortunately for me, it never got going and some of that has to be attributed to casting. Tobey Maguire still looks like a 14 year old weakling so I couldn't see him as this veteran marine captain. Similarly, Jake Gylenhall is too much of a nice guy to play a convicted felon, maybe he wasn't meant to "threaten" here but was too nice in the role for me.

A movie like this is all about empathy but there wasn't enough character development or plot scenarios to get me that interested in the characters, it was only in the last 35 minutes that Sam started to lose the plot but the high drama I was expecting just didn't materialize and in the end I was pleased the film ended when it did and it didn't meander on some more. Sure the effect of PTSD is a challenging topic to cover but with the cast and resources at the director's disposal, this goes down as a big disappointment for me.
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Well acted but extremely disappointing
imdbbl30 December 2009
Brothers tells the story of two siblings, thirty-something Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) and younger brother Tommy Cahill (Jake Gyllenhaal), who are polar opposites. A Marine about to embark on his fourth tour of duty, Sam is a steadfast family man married to his high school sweetheart, Grace (Natalie Portman), with whom he has two young daughters (Bailee Madison, Taylor Grace Geare). Tommy, his younger brother, is a drifter just out of jail. He slides easily into his role as family provocateur on his first night out of prison, at Sam's farewell dinner with their parents, Elsie (Mare Winningham) and Hank Cahill (Sam Shepard), a retired Marine.Shipped out to Afghanistan, Sam is presumed dead when his Black Hawk helicopter is shot down in the mountains. At home in suburbia, the Cahill family suddenly faces a shocking void, and Tommy tries to fill in for his brother by assuming new found responsibility for himself, Grace, and the children. But Sam is not dead. And when he comes back to American soil he can't let go of the things that happened to him in Afghanistan. On top of that he has suspicions that his wife may have cheated on him with his brother... Oh boy, Brothers was a true disappointment to me. I remember seeing the trailer for the film, a couple of months ago and it seemed like an extremely intense and emotional story, plus my favorite actress, the very talented Natalie Portman? And an angry and deranged Tobey Maguire? I mean, what else can you ask for? This had the makings to be one the best films of the year and a serious Oscar contender. Unfortunately, it's none of that. The premise of the film is great and holds a lot of potential, I'm not denying that, but somehow it got lost in the way. The dialog is very simplistic and the interaction between characters feels very odd or in other words, the script is weak. Natalie Portman was not exactly bad, and at times I was able to see little glimpses of her talent in some of the more dramatic scenes but she has done much ,much better. Jake Gyllenhaal who's a very good actor as well did the best he could but his character was completely under-developed. Tobey Maguire, probably tired of doing all those crap Spiderman films, showed a lot of anger and rage but even in calm situations he looked like a psycho ready to go off at any moment, definitely a good job and probably the best acting he has done in years. And then there's Sam Shepard (Sam's father) who had a small role but made the most of it. I guess the biggest flaw of Brothers is the fact that the film takes too much time to actually get into Sam's return and him having to deal with all the things I mentioned above and that should be the main focus of the film. It's only in the third act that the film starts to get interesting and then, before you know it, it ends...

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This movie has a 7 rating on IMDb? Seriously?
cherrycoke32542 April 2010
The premise was great but the screenplay was poorly thought out. There was no real concept of time, or a thorough building of the characters or of their relationships. The sign of a great movie is when it invokes feelings, thoughts, or concepts in the viewer. Heck, I even settle for sheer old entertainment value! Unfortunately, this film failed on all counts. Maybe my hopes were set too high, as I'm a fan of a good drama/ suspense thriller. I recall movies like A Perfect Murder, The Gift, and Seven being a few stand-outs from years past. Never building anything convincing, this movie was out of pace due to a heap of predictable montage scenes that conclude in a lackluster finish. ( The only exception maybe being the scene at the little girls birthday party..but still not good enough to warrant sitting through the entire movie)

Tobey McGuire's performance could be considered a slightly redeeming factor; However, even he too seems to have fallen victim to this poorly developed script.

Oh well, maybe next time Spidey.
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Oscar buzz for this one coming!
lumadrian14 November 2009
Very few films that I see can affect me to tears... this one did manage to do that. I am a jaded Industry member that has studied & participated in many films over my 26-plus yr. career, therefore when I got to that point-of-no-return tissue-wise, I had plenty of adjacent sniffles around me. This film has many stellar performances to speak of and most surprising to me was Tobey Maguire's! He has finally won me over as a fan. I am certain that there are at least 5 Oscar Noms. in store for this movie: Best Pix, Best Director, Best Actor (Tobey), Best Actress (Natalie Portman), and Best Supp. Actress (8-yr-old Bailee Madison, a phenom!) Nat Port called her at the screening, "...a little genius!"
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Thi movie is a very bad copy of the original
obedient_69-641-93866721 January 2010
Go and see the original Danish movie. Jim Sheridan has ripped this movie to bits and destroyed it. It doesn't need the Hollywood ending! This awful version of Brothers (Mr Sheridan didn't even bother changing the title) is a water down movie wonderland of the original gripping drama. The characters become unbelievable and over the top. Whilst some of the original storyline has been kept, some very important parts are removed. The original movie focuses on the horror of war, of family life while a soldier is away and comes back. It does not focus on which side is the "good side" and who is "the bad side" and the "glory" of war. (unlike Mr Sheridans) He really has missed the main point of the movie.

Please go and see the original far superior movie: Its called Brødre by Susanne Bier. You'll find the non-Hollywood actors also do a far superior job.
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Heart Wrenching
Hitchcoc14 April 2010
I have the great fortune to have never had to be in the situation these men find themselves. I think the movie's strength is in showing us what war can be and what a tortured soul can be. Some have said what they would do in this circumstance. Perhaps some would have been dead heroes. This guy wasn't. He ultimately succumbed and paid a tremendous price. The movie wasn't meant to be a John Wayne thriller where a man walks through a hundred machine guns trained on him. It is about someone locked in a hole for months and it's about what could happen to (has happened to) people like him. I do agree that the military would have intervened with psychological counseling and debriefing before sending the young man home again. Nevertheless, if you believe that this kind of resolution is possible then the acting and directing are really very good.
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