Monday, January 4, 2010

Brothers (2009)


When Sam (Tobey Maguire), a Captain in the marines, has his helicopter shot down in Afghanistan he is presumed dead. As his family absorbs the shock back him, his wildchild brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) steps up to be a father figure for Sam's kids, and help support Sam's aching wife, Grace (Natalie Portman). Tommy and Grace grow close, almost too close, but the return of Sam may shake things up more than they ever imagined.

While watching Brothers I was left with two overbearing thoughts: 1) My god could the commercials have shown more of the ending? and 2) It's nice to see Tobey Maguire return to pre-Spiderman acting form. Let's be honest Tobey Maguire is no acting mastermind, much of which I nominate to his rather high pitched voice, but here he's asked to deliver a dark, borderline schizophrenic, performance, which he manages to handle with solid ease. The rest of the cast handles their performances with great respect to the original Danish film, and seem to care about the message being sent. Unfortunately though, there always seems to be something missing.

Let's be honest following the critical disaster that was Sheridan's Get Rich or Die Tryin', the man needed a solid critical comeback. Perhaps that's why one of the best character people in the business went for a "safe" remake. Sure the film deals with harsh materials, but he would really have to screw it up in order for it to be lambasted critically (despite it receiving mixed reviews). What allows Brothers to work is Sheridan's sense of character, the development of them, and how they deal with certain situations. The growth of Tommy, and subsequent descent of Sam, is believable because it develops over time, through painful situations. There's no random cut to a new personality trait that randomly occurred, it all goes with the flow.

Unfortunately though the writing of David Benioff (whose been a mixed bag of greatness and disaster) always seems a step ahead of the emotion. In the beginning this is perfectly fine, as we assume it'll all tie itself together in the end, but it never really does. This ultimately leads to a dark, and entrancing finale, that should have been more impactful than it really was. Much of this is caused by repetitive dialogue, and what seemed to me to be an abrupt cut in order to hasten the pace for the big moment. It still works, but I felt a bit underwhelmed, despite some great emotion performances given by Portman, Maguire, and Gyllenhaal. The ending also leaves quite a bit unanswered, but does give the viewer some minor closure, which gives it a passing grade. As a blogging buddy of mine, MadHatter, pointed out, you can start off slow and hit the ending, and be loved, but no matter how you start you can't fumble the ending. Brothers may be an example of this far more than it cares to be.

Though don't let that discourage you. The ending isn't all bad, and there's a lot of little things to appreciate from this latest Sheridan outing. Just don't expect to be waving any flags of perfection. Oh, and if you can, avoid the trailers for this movie as much as possible (they pretty much show nothing but the finale 45minutes of the film).

While it's by no means perfect, Brothers boasts some great performances from its leads, and manages to skate by on the strength of the original story.

4 better thoughts:

Candice Frederick said...

the ending wasn't bad to me, it was kinda anticlimactic though. love the movie, very emotional.

Chase Kahn said...

Yeah, I don't know, I thought "Brothers" was okay. I didn't really like the constant cutting between Afghanistan and home, nor did I find it very affecting. It was kind of a been there, done that thing that was certainly hampered (you're right) by the over-informative trailers and TV spots.

Plus, I actually thought the relationship between Sam Shephard's father character and his sons was more interesting than anything else and sadly, is not expanded on very much.

I will give it credit for having the most tense dinner table scenes of any movie this year.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I suppose not seeing the original made me like this more. I was pretty much a fan of this. I actually didn't think the trailer gave away that much, it looked like some token romantic drama film.

PS. You think Tobey MaGuire has a high pitched voice? Really?

Univarn said...

@Candice it's definitely not happy ever after.

@Chase they definitely didn't explore that enough, I just think this movie rushed its way to the big finale once Sam returned home.

@Andrew it wasn't that they were informative as much as 75% of the trailers were from scenes from the final 15 minutes of the movie...

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