So far, Hollywood's attempts at making movies about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been failures, usually critically but always financially.
There are a lot of potential reasons for this. While coverage of the wars has ebbed and flowed, it has never disappeared, so why would you pay $9 to see well-paid actors in fictionalized stories about the war when the real thing stares at you from every news show and magazine? A lot of Americans are still sorting out their feelings about the wars, so many bristle when presented with films that take strong stances about them. With the wars grinding on for years, many people are simply sick of hearing about the endless, seemingly pointless waste of lives being wreaked by both wars. And with less than 1% of the US population actually fighting the wars, the vast majority of Americans have the luxury of tuning it out.
Into this difficult climate steps Brothers. Based on the highly acclaimed Danish film of the same name, directed by Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father), and starring three of the best actors of their generation (Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire), Brothers seemed sure to be the film to break the war drama curse. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
See my ReThink Review of Brothers below.
The only film that has seemed to break the curse has been Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, which follows a three-man bomb squad as they attempt to defuse IEDs in Iraq. The film is episodic, plotless, and is essentially an action/thriller disguised as a drama, with riveting, nerve-shredding, original action sequences paired with the deconstruction of wartime heroism to examine the different motivations soldiers have for going to war. While screenwriter Mark Boal has said that his feelings about the war are evident in the film, The Hurt Locker is never preachy and can be enjoyed whether you agree with Boal's stance or not -- or even ascertain what it is.
That's a pretty tricky balancing act -- one that Brothers, despite its star power and pedigree, is not able to manage.
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