Reviewed by: Katie Thomas
|Featuring:||Jake Gyllenhaal … Tommy Cahill
Natalie Portman … Grace Cahill
Tobey Maguire … Capt. Sam Cahill
Clifton Collins Jr. … Major Cavazos
Bailee Madison … Isabelle Cahill
Sam Shepard … Hank Cahill
Mare Winningham … Elsie Cahill
Taylor Geare … Maggie Cahill
Patrick Flueger … Private Joe Willis
Jenny Wade … Tina
Carey Mulligan … Cassie Willis
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|Director:||Jim Sheridan—“In America,” “In the Name of the Father,” “My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown”|
|Producer:|| Michael De Luca Productions
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“There are two sides to every family.”
“Brothers” is the kind of film that crushes your soul, but in the best way possible. And since nothing similar has come out recently, it is entirely refreshing to see a story and characters with such depth.
Capt. Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), a good father and family man, makes preparations to be stationed in Afghanistan while his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) is released from prison on parole. Welcoming one son home and sending another away, causes plenty of family tension on its own, and when Sam’s wife Grace (Natalie Portman) receives word of Sam’s death, the family takes it hard. Tommy steps up in to take care of Grace and her daughters, Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare), and just as life goes back to normal, Sam comes home from war, a changed man entirely. As the family tries to cope and support the new situation, Sam’s inner turmoil gets the best of him.
No more can be said of the plot without giving it all away. I can say, however, that I never saw the surprises towards the end coming. I walked into the theater under the impression the story would be similar to “Pearl Harbor.” The previews did an excellent job making the film look like it would be about Grace’s infidelity with Tommy, when, like so many things in life, it was actually about something else entirely. Kudos to the marketing team for keeping it a secret.
There were definitely some negative aspects of the film. Tommy is continually smoking, and in one scene it appears to be marijuana. There are also several scenes with people drinking beers together at home, in a bar, and out of a flask. Eventually these elements become just another part of the characters. The brunt of the swearing took place at the climax, when Sam loses control and lets out at least 20 f-words, practically doubling the count to 50 in a minute. Sh*t, d*mn, and b*itch are used a few times, along with hell, d*ick, and bastard. One use of Christ’s name in vain occurs. Somehow they got me so immersed in the characters, a few profanities almost slipped by without notice.
Violence also played a key role in the film, because they showed what Sam endured during his capture in Afghanistan. These scenes were not typical war scene with lots of gunfire and shouting, but were very focused on a single act of brutality at a time. Both captured Marines are tortured by starvation and with a searing metal rod as screams of agony echo through the desert. In another scene, a man is forced to either beat a man to death with a lead pipe or be shot. This and the climax where Sam loses control and bashes his kitchen cupboards are the most painful scenes to endure.
The family dynamics were also tough to swallow. The father of the sons, Hank (Sam Shepard) shows absolute favoritism toward Sam, and complete contempt for Tommy, the “screw-up” son. This animosity runs deep in the family, and Isabelle starts to see contempt for her younger sister Maggie who “gets everything” and “everyone loves.” Things build until the end when Isabelle lashes out at her father at the dinner table out of her hurt.
All these dynamics and more underlying ones keep the story going, making this a character-driven film. This movie is too heart-breaking to use the word “enjoy,” but I did have an excellent experience watching. I felt honest emotions and was swept up into this story so flawlessly. I feel the director Jim Sheridan did his job well, and any recent Oscar-buzz surrounding the film is well deserved.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Minor
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