An all-star cast and an all-star director combine forces in Brothers, a remake of a 2004 Danish film that isn't the explosive drama one would expect or hope for. Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman star in the movie by Jim Sheridan, and while the picture boasts excellent performances, the ultimate experience is shockingly flat.
In Brothers, Maguire plays Captain Sam Cahill, a do-gooder Marine who has a loving wife named Grace (Portman) and two young daughters. On the verge of being redeployed to Afghanistan, he picks up his troublesome brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal) from prison. As tensions rise at home, Sam heads off to war, only to be subsequently shot down in a helicopter and assumed dead. With lives shattered, Tommy takes an affinity toward his brother's children and the icy relationship between Tommy and Grace begins to thaw. Just as Grace and her daughters have accepted Tommy into their lives, Sam, who has been captured by the Taliban and tortured physically and mentally, is rescued and returned to America. But with his mind shattered, paranoia begins to set in that Tommy and Grace were not faithful to Sam.
The movie, a three-way character study with dynamite implications, is intriguing enough. Thanks to a sharply written screenplay and stellar performances, Brothers has enough richness to keep things interesting.
Interesting. Intriguing. Enough. Exciting words, huh?
I like to compare Brothers to Doubt, a movie far different but one that featured a couple excellent actors squaring off against one another. It's a bad comparison, and by no means am I saying any of the actors here are as good as Meryl Streep or Philip Seymour Hoffman, but Doubt is the first movie that comes to mind for whatever reason. In my review of that Oscar-nominated drama, I used the following words: Sharp. Superb. Powerful.
Interesting. Intriguing. Enough. Those words don't sound quite as remarkable anymore, do they?
Gyllenhaal is terrific. Portman delivers her finest performance since Closer, and looks as gorgeous as she ever has. Maguire is absolutely intense; this is the best performance of his career.
But other than the acting, there's nothing incredible about the film. It's good, perhaps better than average, but emotionally bland when compared to Sheridan's In America, one of my favorites. As good as the performances are, everything feels stilted, as if the emotional explosiveness alluded to in the previews is locked away behind a steel door, never to be released. In fact, the trailer is much more intense than the movie; nothing nearly as remarkable happens in the actual movie, and some of the most intense sequences never boil over in the way I was hoping. Oh, and aside from the torture sequences in Afghanistan, the entire movie is shown in the previews. Thrilling.
Brothers is an above average film, but heightened expectations result in disappointment. The great performances aren't able to overcome the surprisingly flat moments scattered throughout.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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