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MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for language and some disturbing violent content.

Reviewed by: Katie Thomas

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
War, Thriller, Drama
1 hr. 50 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
December 4, 2009 (wide—2,000+ theaters)
DVD: March 23, 2010
Copyright, Lionsgate Films click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Lionsgate Films Copyright, Lionsgate Films Copyright, Lionsgate Films Copyright, Lionsgate Films Copyright, Lionsgate Films Copyright, Lionsgate Films Copyright, Lionsgate Films Copyright, Lionsgate Films Copyright, Lionsgate Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Lionsgate Films

Marriage in the Bible


What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

Featuring: Jake GyllenhaalTommy Cahill
Natalie PortmanGrace Cahill
Tobey MaguireCapt. Sam Cahill
Clifton Collins Jr. … Major Cavazos
Bailee Madison … Isabelle Cahill
Sam ShepardHank Cahill
Mare Winningham … Elsie Cahill
Taylor Geare … Maggie Cahill
Patrick Flueger … Private Joe Willis
Jenny Wade … Tina
Carey MulliganCassie Willis
See all »
Director: Jim Sheridan—“In America,” “In the Name of the Father,” “My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown”
Producer: Michael De Luca Productions
Palomar Pictures
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Lionsgate Films. Trademark logo.
Lionsgate Films

“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

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—“Brothers” was a very good and realistic drama. Although it had few curse words and a smoking pot scene, there was nothing extremely offensive. The movie itself was well written and directed. The acting was excellent. I loved the characters and how you see a change in each. The little girls were precious. For a secular drama, it was very good. I must say it was very sad at times, and the end left you wanting to see more. I did enjoy the movie as a whole.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Gloria Day, age 44 (USA)
Positive—My daughter went to see this movie last night, and she came home and said that we have to see it before it leaves the theater. She is 17, and said it was very thought provoking and intense. She had no idea what happens to men and women that come home from serving in war times. I thought this movie was extremely well made and well acted by all. I thought, before I saw it today that it would be more about the “affair” between the brother and the wife, however it goes much deeper than that. I don’t want to say too much, but it is a movie that will stay with you for a very long time, and if Toby isn’t nominated for an academy award something is wrong with the industry. There were no sex scenes. A few bad words, and one scene where they were smoking pot, but overall nothing overly offensive. This is well worth the 2 hours and the price of the ticket.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Teri, age 51 (USA)
Positive—No bedroom scenes… just a married couple lying in bed. The F bomb is thrown around dozens of times, often in the context of its original definition. The violence is dark in the few instances it is (mostly) alluded to, but it stems from the war aspect of this film (which is limited).

For the longest time, I confused Jake G. and Tobey M. They do look alike in many aspects. It was only fitting they were solicited to star opposite one another as the titular characters of this charged drama. Though G is a modest actor (and easily could have been replaced by another), he did well in this role. In short, “Brothers” is a family drama wherein a Marine captain, the stable head of a household of 4, loses his marbles after a stint as a POW. Compare and contrast this with Jake G’s role. He’s the younger, immature brother on parole, who through circumstance, takes up the mantle of responsibility in shepherding the household Tobey leaves behind in the wake of his presumed death.

***SPOILER*** Towards the end, the two characters reverse roles, taking on one another’s former identities. ***END SPOILER***

I dragged my friends to a late showing of this at the suggestion of my dear sis. She forewarned me it’s depressing, which I’ll disagree with by the same token “Patch Adams” is an UPLIFTING tale. Rather than adhering to the bleaker moments of woe and despair (e.g. a pivotal death), you have to look at the upshots these stories present. In “Patch Adams”, Patch loses the love of his life in a horrible homicide, and he plunges into bitter despair. When all looks lost, and he’s ready to throw-in the towel on his dream of changing peoples' lives for the good, a small message is communicated to him while he peers over the precipice of a remote mountain side. A message, no doubt, given to him from the Father following a heartfelt prayer.

Patch turns around at that crucial moment, having found the impetus, the renewed sense of purpose, he needs. His mission in life up until that point was helping people and being a positive light in a rather stoic profession, and he cemented it amidst a difficult hardship.

With “Brothers,” it’s the MIA status and subsequent unraveling of Tobey M’s very mental fabric that forces his negligent brother to a) step up and b) fight alongside the wife for family unity. And like Patch, Brothers does this very naturally. Mos. go by with Tobey in captivity, unbeknownst to the folks back in the states. Under immense strain, he commits a fatal blunder in hopes of silencing his captors' demands. All the while, the only hope keeping the Tobster alive is home. His wife and his girls.

When TM finally returns home, his fractured psyche leads him to believe his brother is cheating on him. To further complicate matters, the marine captain can’t confide in anyone. Too grievous and burdensome is his sin that it steadily separates him from his loved ones. Even his father (Sam Shephard), a Vietnam vet who is quick to pick up on something being awry, can’t console his boy. He empathizes, having lived through his share of atrocities himself, but he doesn’t know how to connect to his son. It’s evidenced by the quick exchange father and son share before dad awkwardly exits stage right. And so the pressure builds. Slowly. Like a tea kettle gradually boiling over. The dramatic events unfold without the slightest feeling of forcedness, which I absolutely love… very little, if anything, in “Brothers” feels predictable.

***SPOILER*** The very end of the film shows Natalie Portman (I must add this is her most convincing role to date) visiting her broken husband at an institute. It’s subtle, but it (along with the telephone call 'twixt the bros.) is a powerful demonstration of love and forbearance. Despite the major upset their family suffers, the wife and brother stand by their troubled kinsman. It’s moving, considering Hollywood is decidedly hush hush concerning pro-family themes. ***END SPOILER***

Powerhouse performances all around, especially from the little girls. Very young child actresses, but very very amazing. Don’t believe I’ve witnessed that caliber of emoting from someone so young. Ever. Add to the mix the terrorized, the pale and very gaunt Tobey M, plus veteran actor Sam Shepard, and you have the year’s finest drama.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Mega Tron, age 23 (USA)
Positive—Along with being a pastor, I have been a mental health nurse for over 30 years. I have also been working in a ministry called Shattered Men to help men who have lost all they have worked for and often due to false accusations of domestic violence or child abuse. Although our government has been giving terrorist Miranda rights, often these men never had these rights. In working with this ministry, and as a psych nurse, I have had several women brag about the “superiority of women” because there are far more men in psych hospitals than women (this is not true, however, as they were talking about Veteran’s hospitals, where there would be many more men).

This movie does a very good job at showing why. I cannot go into detail without giving it away, but while the main character was a POW, he had to endure things no human should ever have to endure, including should he do things to stay alive even if it means another man’s death? Even the few female POW’s in Iraq have not had to endure things such as this as we know that most often war is about “males killing other males,” and most will protect women far more often. (Jessica Lynch for example is alive today because she was a woman while all the rest of her company were killed most likely because they were male.)

Brothers' shows the reality of war from behind the scenes. We need to remember that this was not a Christian movie but it does show the cost of war even if one lives through it. I am sure that the men fighting the battles for Israel had some of the same feelings as for most cities, they were ordered to kill every male (Deuteronomy 20:11-14) which was bad enough, but for several other cities, they were ordered to kill all but virgin girls (Numbers 31:17-18) or every living thing including men, women and children.

We also need to realize that one does not have to be in a war zone to be at war. Most who do not know the LORD are at war and the hardest place to find peace is in the human heart that has not trusted the LORD. It is my wish that this movie would cause any Christian to pray for our military and those in hostile areas and that we would all realize that the only cure for war is THE PRINCE OF PEACE.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Pastor Ken, age 63 (USA)
Neutral—…there was partial nudity in the hospital scene with Penelope in a hospital gown. I was also disturbed by the “sounds” of intercourse. Next time, please consider all aspects of the movie in reviewing it. My husband and I are deliberately trying to steer away from anything that could potentially stir up unwanted mental images past or present.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Courtney, age 28 (USA)
Negative—The American fighting man, even in captivity, would not sink to the low level of his country’s enemies, like killing a fellow brother in arms.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
patriot, age 44 (Philippines)
Comments from young people
NegativeRomans 12:10 (NASB) “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.”

I am a video post production editor at my local church, and I have found myself studying films when I see them. When I saw that this film had received two global nominations for awards I knew that this film would be of high quality. I was right—from the camera work to the depth of the personalities and characteristics of the characters was all phenomenal!

But, nonetheless, the movie leaves the viewer with a negative taste in there mouth about war, the marriage covenant, and the relational aspect of a working family. There is disunity, rebellion, anger, pride, jealousy, drunkenness, sensuality, dissension, and many other things of this nature that saturate this movie in a ungodly manner. Please take a note from your true brother in Christ and head this word! Do not be overwhelmingly captured by the presence and semblance of this movie to disregard the Word of God. Matthew 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Joseph Tracy, age 17 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Why are Christian reviewers recommending films that include excessive profanity? Someone, please give a biblical reason that Christians should be content with viewing these kinds of films. Please heed these words from Scripture: But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips -Col. 3:8 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things should not be this way -James 3:9-10 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone -Col. 4:6 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, LORD, my rock and my Redeemer -Psalm 19:14

The common excuse for Christians seeing filthy movies is, you might say, “I’m not as sensitive” or that a more “mature” Christian can deal with profanity, sex, etc. …We are called to be a holy people, brothers and sisters (1 Pet. 1:16). My fellow reviewers, please stop recommending films that contain excessive filth. A Christian has no business seeing films with excessive profanity even if you think it’s realistic or not. Seeking Truth for His Glory
Karl, age 25 (USA)
Thank you Karl for your wise and insightful comments. I agree completely. I will not spend my money on movies like this for those very reasons.
Leslie, age 48 (USA)