01 January 2010

Review: "Brothers"

Brothers is a remake of a 2004 Danish film, which was written and directed by Susanne Bier. While it has become very common to remake foreign films for American audiences, it is a shame that studios do not promote foreign films. I have not seen Susanne Bier's film, but I do believe that it would be a lot more interesting than this remake. The film stars three of Hollywood's young actors: Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal. I was very surprised to notice that Jim Sheridan, the Irish director responsible for the Academy Award-nominated films My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father, would direct an American remake. I had some real reservations about the film after seeing the trailer. This was mostly because the trailer presented the film like a thriller, with Tobey Maguire becoming the jealous husband. I do not really like him as an actor, and the only film of his that I have ever truly enjoyed was 1997's The Ice Storm. Natalie Portman has always had great promise, from her very first film Léon (The Professional) at age 13, but she has not been in any films that have showcased her talents. The same can be said for Jake Gyllenhaal, whose only acclaimed performance was in Brokeback Mountain. I would never pay to see Brothers and I will admit the only reason I saw it was because I watched it online.

Sam (Tobey Maguire) is a Marine captain who is set to depart for Afghanistan, leaving his young wife Grace (Natalie Portman) at home with their two young daughters. Prior to his depart, Sam's brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) is released from prison. Their father (Sam Shephard) thinks Sam is a hero and has always made Tommy feel like a disappointment. Grace does not like Tommy, and does not like to be around him. Shortly after Sam leaves for Afghanistan there is news that his plane crashed down and he is assumed dead. There is a scene that is reminiscent of The Messenger, yet this film never quite finds the right emotional tone. Grace and Tommy begin to bond through their grief, with Tommy becoming a new father figure for his nieces. The audience learns that Sam is not dead, and that he has been taken prisoner in a small village. Grace and Tommy share one kiss, but nothing escalates further. Sam is rescued after a few months and returns home traumatized. He can no longer relate to his wife and kids, and suspects that his brother and wife have become lovers.

Brothers presents itself like a melodrama, the characters never seem to fully develop their emotions. Tobey Maguire's Sam seems to be distant from the very beginning, and even during his angry outburst during the film's climax he seems to hold back. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Tommy like a quiet introverted man, and throughout the film he seems to never change. Only the two young girls, Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare, seem to be the most affected by the film's events. Personally I had a lot of issues watching the film and did not believe the emotions of the characters. Brothers is a decent film, but I would rather have seen the original, because I think that even through the language barrier I would have been more empathetic.

My rating: 2 stars out of 4.

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