Reviews, Reports + Comments

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review of film: “BROTHERS” ( with Tobey Maguire & Jake Gyllenhaal )

2009, 11-30:

Review of film:  BROTHERS


Jim Sheridan.


Susanne Bier & Anders Thomas Jensen  (from original Danish motion picture "Brødre"); &
David Benioff  (current screenplay)


Jake Gyllenhaal
Tobey Maguire
Natalie Portman
Sam Shepard
Mare Winningham
Bailee Madison
Taylor Geare
Patrick Flueger
Carey Mulligan.

MPAA Rating:

Rated R for language and some disturbing violent content.

“ She felt like she could breathe again. ”
“ I can’t wait to start bouncing checks! ”
“ Sam had NO ‘Quit’ in him. 
“ They need therapy if they stub their toe. ”

MY Rating: 

8.5 of 10 stars (based on an advance screening of the 110–minute film opening 12-04-09).

                        A FAMILY IN DISARRAY & DAT-ARRAY

Sam Cahill (TOBEY MAGUIRE) is the “white sheep” in his family:  a do-everything-right Marine Captain who’s admired for his strong spirit and ability, & clearly the favorite son of his ex-military father Hank (SAM SHEPARD)…

  When the film starts, he’s eventually seen going to meet his “BLACK Sheep” brother Tommy (JAKE GYLLENHAAL) who’s about to be released from prison for a major crime that involved threatening a lady who worked in a bank…

  Tobey has a two daughters:  sensitive Isabelle (BAILEE MADISON, in an excellent performance) & younger girl Maggie (TAYLOR GEARE).  His wife Grace (NATALIE PORTMAN) is clearly not thrilled that Jake is rejoining the extended family, which also includes Sam’s second wife Elsie (MARE WINNINGHAM), the only person besides Tobey who is kind to Jake (altho he’s just a step-son)…

  Jake clearly still has his problems with being irresponsible, as shown by his ongoing boozing and his deep anger at the attitude of his constantly-complaining and deeply-hostile dad who regularly picks on him…  Natalie is clearly distressed that Tobey has agreed to return to lead his men in Afghanistan, & daughter Taylor is openly UNHAPPY with the way he keeps leaving their family…

  Overseas, Tobey is involved in a dangerous assignment & reported as KILLED in a hostile engagement--  which tends to cause Jake to start “stepping up” & being a RESPONSIBLE member of the family, with efforts to help out Natalie and the girls… 

  As the story moves on, we in the audience (as opposed to his family & the U.S. military) see that Tobey is really a living CAPTIVE of vicious military groups in Asia…  You get to know his co-prisoner Private Joe Willis (PATRICK FLUEGER) & see his back-home wife Cassie (CAREY MULLIGAN, who was recently seen in “AN EDUCATION”)…

  Could it be that a sign on the wall of Tobey’s home that says Peace Be To This House” will turn out to be highly IRONIC?…  Will Jake’s efforts be seen as “TOO much” help & involvement with the females of his brother’s household?…

  What changes will come to Tobey’s “family dynamic” back home if they learn he’s still alive?…  Is Tobey ever going to RETURN to his family, & if so, what kind of “SHAPE” will he be in emotionally from his ordeals?…

  This movie (based on a 2004 Danish film) covers the intricacies of all that in sometimes shattering fashion, with what I consider to be a performance worthy of an OSCAR® nomination by Tobey, & possibly one for Natalie.  (Jake is also excellent, but his role as written isn’t as “fiery” or as “wide-ranging” in a “dazzling” way as those of the other two)…

  Given how “close” the story resonates in certain ways to the problems going on now in Afghanistan (thanks to the typical do-nothing-effective “Bandaid” policies of the previous “Emperor George of the BUNGLE”), it’s not always an “easy” yarn to take… 

  But, it struck me as a finely-done tale of how much can go wrong on a “personal” level because of the disintegrating “dominoes” of foreign politics in today’s world, & how, sometimes, “no ‘GOOD’ deed [of well-meaning people] goes unpunished”… 

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