Raw and rough
War flick plucks at heartstrings
Despite the film’s problems, this may be Tobey Maguire’s breakout role. Sure, he was memorable as Spiderman, but the intensity of his performance in Brothers blows everything else he’s done away.
Maguire isn’t the only one who delivers a stellar performance here. Co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman are equally strong—and it’s this strength (and only this strength, it turns out) that moves the film forward, keeps us enthralled and even makes us cry a little.
The film is (naturally) about two brothers, Sam (Maguire) and Tommy (Gyllenhaal), who couldn’t be more different. Sam went the military route, is disciplined and has a beautiful wife, Grace (Portman), and two cute daughters. Tommy, on the other hand, is released from prison at the beginning of the film.
After Sam is re-deployed to Afghanistan and subsequently presumed dead, Tommy fills in at home, taking care of the kids and his widowed sister-in-law. Then Sam reappears, having endured serious trauma, and nothing is quite the same.
Brothers is based on the Danish film Brødre but, considering the continuing war in Afghanistan, it still feels relevant.
The feelings at play are raw, and real. But the pace is slow, and choppy, as director Jim Sheridan goes back and forth between simultaneous scenes on the home front, with Tommy and Grace, and abroad, with Sam as a POW. The result is anything but smooth.
A lot of people will walk away emotionally affected by Brothers, but there is a lack of closure in the end that, along with the uneven storytelling, will leave many confused and not quite satisfied.