Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire put any one of those names in a movie and I will go see it.. well ok I didn’t see Brokeback Mountain, but I want to (that counts right?). But put them together in a film and I am in like Flynn.
Brothers is a remake of a Danish film from 2004 Brødre which I never got to see, so I’m not gonna base my review off of the older film. Before I get into the movie review I just want to say that people should try to avoid seeing the trailer for this film. The first time I saw the trailer I felt that it spoiled a major ‘twist’ from the story and although after seeing the film I don’t feel that way anymore I still think it would be a better experience if people didn’t really know the thing that the trailer spoils.
So let me introduce the film to you so that you don’t have to watch the trailer. Capt. Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) is married to Grace (Natalie Portman) they live in a nice house with 2 daughters. Tobey is about to get deployed to Afghanistan just after his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) is released from jail. Its a very typical American setup, you even have the cheerleader marrying the quarterback ingredient thrown into the mix. They all celebrate Sam’s birthday and when he gets sent to Afghanistan Tommy helps out in taking care of his family. There you go, a spoiler-free almost 100% accurate text trailer for the film. Thats my best effort to keep you away from the trailer but feel free to watch it if you’re that stubborn.
As for the actual movie, the performances really make this movie shine. If you’ve never seen Tobey act in anything other than the Spider-Man movies then prepare to have your mind blown by his acting prowess in this film. A few minutes into the movie there’s a dinner scene and without giving too much away I was really impressed at how Jake Gyllenhaal portrayed his character. You can tell the differences between the two brothers just by the way they ate and talked.
The scenes from Afghanistan will make you cringe, Tobey’s character, Sam, suffers through a lot and at one point he snaps and does something horrible which becomes his dilemma. I really admired the chemistry between the three main characters, Avy Kaufman deserves props because she saw how Tobey and Jake would make great siblings before anyone else. Sam Shephard is their father Hank in the film, a Vietnam war vet, this was very interesting because the film showed two distinct reactions to this type of family although I hoped the film explored this concept a bit more.
This film succeeds in making the story believable, it would’ve been so easy to just take every emotional scene to the extreme just to pull the audiences’ heartstrings however it just made every scene feel true. I’m not sure that its a faithful representation of an American war household but it makes me feel that it could certainly be the case because of the way the story and the characters are, all real. I could also say the same for the actors since their characters had moments where they could just overact, but they never did, even at the most climactic scenes you still feel like that’s how real people might react given the same situation.
Another one of my favorite scenes from the film is the second family dinner where the tension build up was pure genius. And I have to say that the two daughters Isabelle and Maggie (Bailey Madison Mare Winningham) provided lots of humor, cuteness and tears to the film as well. However it was during this 2nd family dinner where the elder daughter said something that I thought was a bit of a reach, it was the first time that I felt the film turn Hollywood, but it was a brief one and they did attempt to explain it in the next scene.
I also appreciated the way they ended the film, after a roller-coaster ride of emotions they decided not to go with a happy ending or a sad ending, they just chose a satisfying ending to the story. I really enjoyed this film because of the performances and because of the scope, its covers two wars – the Afghanistan war and the war in a soldier’s household, and of course the relationship between the two brothers and their relatives and friends.