"Brothers" DVD, Blu-ray Review

3/24/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review


Directed by Jim Sheridan, written by David Benioff, 104 Minutes, rated R.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"Brothers" could've been a great film. Instead, it's a potentially great film trapped in a part-melodrama and part-cheesy war film with performances that deserve a much better script.

The film, a remake of the 2004 Danish film of the same name, is about two brothers, Sam and Tommy Cahill (Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal). Sam always has made his father proud. A star athlete who married his high school sweetheart, Grace (Natalie Portman), and bravely serves in the Marines, he is everything his father wants in a son. Tommy...not so much--he's just getting out of prison for holding up a bank and he's coldly welcomed back into the family just before Sam is about to head back into Afghanistan.

One night, Grace gets a visit from a couple soldiers--Sam's helicopter has been shot down and he's believed to be dead. She's left to raise their two daughters alone, and it nearly destroys her, but she and Tommy connect over their shared loss. He sticks around, helps around the house, and helps the girls get over the death of their father.

But Sam isn't really dead. He's been taken to a POW camp, and when he finally manages to get rescued, his return to his old life and the mental anguish he's suffering starts tearing the family apart.

The film deals with multiple heavy themes, most importantly the struggles between siblings and the effects of war on the mind. Neither is explored particularly well, and I think this is mostly due to the rather uneven script, which doesn't really take an assured direction with the story and just meanders around, relying too much on dialogue to get across its message instead of letting the characters speak for themselves. The film could definitely use a bit of ambiguity, especially when dealing with Maguire's character, who's portrayed as a madman pretty much from the start instead of given any room to develop.

The film also would have benefited from cutting down on the sequences in Afghanistan--a film so desperate to convey the complexities of a soldier's mindset seems pretty focused on simplifying their situation. It doesn't help that these sequences are pretty much all really cliched and corny.

Thankfully, the performances are generally great, and they make up for a great deal of the negative aspects of the film. Maguire takes the biggest risks here, portraying Sam as a lot more cold and on edge than nearly any of his previous roles, but you can say whatever you want about his or any other adult performance in the film--the real standout here is Bailee Madison as Sam and Grace's young daughter Isabelle. Hers is easily one of the best child performances I've seen. She seems to deftly portray a child that has to deal with overwhelming emotions far too early in her life. Her story--her relationship between her sister and her parents--is far more powerful than the parallel story between Maguire and Gyllenhaal.

"Brothers" could've been something truly great, but despite it's generally stellar performances and a few really strong moments, it settles on being merely passable. It's a shame.

Grade: C

View the trailer for "Brothers" below. What do you think?

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