I tend to usually stay away from movies involving the impact of war in the home as I find them to be one of the more depressing movies that have come out of cinema in the past. Brothers was no exception. Standing in blockbuster looking for a movie is not something I do often, but my parents didn’t like the ones I brought home for the week so we took the trip. I had heard of the movie and the premise behind it but thought of it more as a romance than a drama. My expectations were quite off as it was made clear half way through the movie the romantic connection really lacked any romantic notions.
Capt. Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) is about to go back for his second tour in Afganastan. Before he leaves he picks up his screw-up brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) from prison. While on tour his Blackhawk gets shot down into enemy territory and presumed dead. Back at home Tommy tries to help Sam’s wife Grace (Natalie Portman) cope with her loss and help with her two girls. Meanwhile Sam isn’t dead; he’s been taken as a prisoner with another one of his soldiers. The relationship between Grace and Tommy grows while Sam is still being held hostage. American troops throughout the whole imprisonment of Sam fly overhead in Blackhawk’s giving the audience hope he will be saved, and inevitably he does. He goes back home to America as a hardened and silent man. He believes that Grace and Tommy have slept together but really that’s the least of his psychological issues.
The three main actors in this movie do not disappoint, their acting is superb and very believable. I think Maguire did outshine each of his cast mates. He did not however outshine the two girls who played his daughters. The two little girls are what binds the story together and breaks your heart in the process. To me, they were the real stars; without them, or having two actresses who were not as good, would have made the story very flat and much too serious. Their comic breaks were just as well acted as their emotional scenes.
I enjoyed this movie because it didn’t force you to take sides with the brothers. You loved each of the characters for who they were and what they represented in the family dynamic. The emotional scenes that Portman gives rips at your heart seams and really gives nothing back. It’s an emotional movie from the very first scene and I believe it’s because it’s realistic. The kicker, or spoiler, is not that he isnt dead but what he had to endure in order to get back to his family. The family isn’t prefect and the writer really knew how to put in the plot elements to understand the dynamic relationship between each character.
As much as I did enjoy this movie there are some obvious flaws while watching the film. It’s called ‘Brothers’ and so one could educationally guess it will centre around two brothers, and although it is true I left this story line quite lacking in substance. The tension was there between the two but I was always hoping for a bit more. One other thing that seemed quite blatant to me was that there was no mystery; we knew everything that had happened to Sam while being a prisoner of war. I think if we wouldn’t have known what happened to him until the end when he told Grace that it would have been able to draw me into the story that much more.
Overall however I believe this to be a great movie for 2009. I would suggest it to those who love drama with a bit of action. This is in no way an anti-war film, or even just a war film, but a movie dealing with the psychological loss of loved ones.