Movie Review: Brothers (2009)

April 10, 2010 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

Brothers is an emotionally charged war/family drama that really surprised me.  I didn’t think it would be this good.

Based on the 2004 Danish film Brødre, it stars Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, and Jake Gyllenhaal, and is directed by Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father).  It tells the story of the Cahill family, focusing on the relationships between the brothers Sam (Maguire), a US soldier, and Tommy (Gyllenhaal), his ex-con brother, and Sam’s wife Grace (Portman).  Of course, the less known about the plot the better.

When I first came across the trailer, a few thoughts raced through my head.  One, this is one heck of a stellar cast.  Two, the story looks kind of interesting.  Three, Natalie Portman looks so pretty.  But then…four, this looks like a blatant rip off of Pearl Harbor, except with no special effects and proper actors!

Well, I was wrong.  The first half of the film went pretty much according to script (it was essentially revealed by the trailer anyway — another reason I hate them), and it had me worried.  The sequence of events was predictable and the characters felt a little too scripted.

But somehow, the second half of the film took off, and the story went in a direction that caught me off guard completely.  I was so glad they didn’t go down the traditional route, which would have been very tempting.  Instead, they focused on other, more compelling issues, and added little twists to what I thought would have been stock-standard dramatic scenes.  Yes, it’s essentially just a family melodrama, but by the end, I was totally captivated and emotionally engaged.

Some fantastic performances anchor the film.  Of course, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman are superb as always, but it’s Tobey Maguire that stands out most amongst the three, even if it’s primarily because of his character.  He’s had some very impressive performances in his career, but I think this might be the best I’ve seen him.  His physical transformation was very unsettling, and most of all he created a believable and sympathetic character.

If there is a complaint it’s that the film felt longer than it’s 105-minute running time, and there’s something about the oldest daughter, played by Bailee Madison, that didn’t quite feel authentic to me, as terrific an actress as she is.  But notwithstanding that, I found Brothers to be a very worthwhile experience.

4 out of 5 stars!