It has been said that war movies do not create good box office but that has been disputed by the success of the amazing film "The Hurt Locker." Now comes "Brothers" to further smash this concept. "Brothers" is a film so finely crafted and so beautifully acted that it has to find an audience.
Jim Sheridan is the perfect director for this movie, which is based on the 2004 Danish film "Brodre." He can juxtapose the horror of war against the fragility of a marriage. He can also make Tobey Maguire so electrifying in his performance that no one will even think once about "Spider Man." And finally he can cast two brilliant child actors who are natural on camera but also able to show the emotional depth of someone two or three times their age.
"Brothers" tells the story of a man named Sam (Maguire) who lives and breathes his military career. The only exception is his family life with his wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and their two daughters Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare). It tears him apart each time he has to leave them and go into combat but that is what happens at the start of this movie.
His unit is called up to go to Afghanistan. While there his helicopter is shot down and Grace is notified he is dead. During her time of grieving she is comforted by Sam's dad (Sam Shepard) and his step-mother Elsie (Mare Winningham). She also draws comfort from his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), a ne'er do well who is forced to mature due to his brother's death.
This film focuses on the horrors of war as they affect the individual soldiers we send to fight. Too often we lose touch of the reality of war but this movie brings the true impact home. Sam Cahill is a victim of the brutality of war and so is his family.
Maguire is amazing as Sam and opposite him Portman does her best work yet. Gyllenhaal has more of a supporting role but he makes Tommy a real important member of the story. Bailee Madison is stunning as the oldest daughter and Taylor Geare is touching as the younger one.
The previews for this film focused on the "love triangle" but this movie is so much more than that. It is a story of courage, loyalty, triumph and tragedy. It is one of the most important movies of the year and should be recognized when awards are handed out.
The film is rated R for profanity and violence.
Jim Sheridan is a director who can focus attention on the full story of his films and handle the balance of love, violence, death and despair. The emotions in this movie run the gamut and Sheridan gives full validity to them all.
We should be ever aware that war of any kind is hell and the impact on the men and women who fight as well as on the families they leave behind is staggering. This movie takes a look at one such family and presents a picture that will awe you as well as fascinate you.
I scored "Brothers" a familial 9 out of 10.
Jackie K. Cooper