Wednesday, 7 July 2010
The words "American remake" are usually enough to send a chill down the spine of even the toughest movie-goers. But with Brothers - a remake of a highly acclaimed 2004 Danish film - the whole thing comes off, due in no small part to the sheer class of the cast. The story begins in America's heartland, with Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) getting out of prison just in time to see his brother Sam (Tobey Maguire), a lieutenant in the Marines, off on another tour of duty in Afghanistan. Their father (Sam Shepard) takes every opportunity to remind Tommy just how useless he is in comparison to his brother, and Tommy's wife Grace (Natalie Portman) isn't his biggest fan either. But when Sam is reported dead, Tommy gradually steps up to take care of his brother's family and make a new man of himself. The good news is, Sam isn't dead - he's just a captive of the Taliban. The bad news is, both he and his family are going through so many changes that when they ever get back together again, there's a good chance they might not fit.
Maguire has the flashy role here, going from his usual nice-guy to a gaunt, mentally-scarred vet, but Gyllenhaal is equally impressive as he goes through his own changes. Portman too is excellent as a grieving widow and mother who can't allow herself to fall apart. It's a gruelling film at times, but director Jim Sheridan strikes just the right balance to keep a glimmer of hope running throughout. It's simplistic to say that as one brother falls the other rises, but there is a balance in this film, and it's not until the hard-hitting final scenes that this balance is finally broken.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #476)