Posted by: da_nibbler | January 16, 2010

Review: ‘Brothers’

A film that could have easily succumbed to its potential melodrama instead manages to focus on its personal story and lets its actors breathe life into realistic characters, that will stick with you long after the screen has turned to black.

Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal play brothers Sam and Tommy Cahill, the former being a Captain in the Armed Forces and the latter just being released from prison. They couldn’t be more different if they tried. As one comes home the other has to leave for Afghanistan, leaving a loving wife (Natalie Portman) and two daughters behind.

The film kicks into gear when Sam is presumed dead (we find out a few scenes later that he was taken captive). Tommy is trying to help out Sam’s wife Grace every way he can, trying to step in for his brother. As one would presume the two grow close. But whether that is going anywhere is not really the point of the film, rather what Sam thinks of this situation when he returns home after his ordeal with the Taliban.

Tobey Maguire dominates the film with his performance as Sam Cahill, living through the tortures of the Taliban, committing horrible acts to make it home to his family only to realize that this is where the real struggle starts. I would have never attributed such darkness to Maguire’s repertoire. He truly surprises and shines.

While Maguire is the darkness, Portman is the heart of this film. Handling the news of her beloved husband’s death in a touching and mature way, Natalie Portman manages to keep her character real and strong with the most subtle performance I have ever seen her do. Grace focuses on her daughters and never for one second do you doubt Portman in the role of a loving and protective mother. It falls to her to keep everything together when Sam unravels bit by bit and we witness her struggle and strength in every single scene. A brilliant performance.

Jake Gyllenhaal sort of gets the short end of the stick characterwise. While he starts out as the “bad” brother he actually turns into the stable and dependable one, stepping in for his presumed dead brother in Grace’s and her daughter’s lifes. He is the strong rock opposite Sam’s unravelling, guiltridden survivor. The two brothers literally switched sides compared to the start of the film. Gyllenhaal doesn’t get as extreme stuff to do as Maguire, but his tender performance counteracts Sam’s craze and flows well with Natalie Portman’s character.

This is a gritty, dramatic, tragic and realistic film with brilliant acting about a story we all know, but unless we’re faced with it personally forget all too easily. It gives all the anonymous stories we hear and read about a face we can relate to and feel for. One of the best films of 2009. Highly recommended!


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