Saturday, 23 January 2010

Brothers - Review

There seems to be an underlying theme amongst the films regarded as 'front-runners' in the award season this year. Up in the Air aside, between films like The Road, The Hurt Locker and with The Lovely Bones and Precious still to come there is a level of domestic despair, death and the consequences of war. The latest entry into the blog Brothers - remake of the 2004 Danish film of the same name - is no different.

Starring three very capable leads in Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman; Brothers is the tale of eh...two brothers, one an ex-convict and all round misfit (Gyllenhaal) and the other a marine in the U.S Army and all round American hero. When oldest brother, Sam heads out to Afghanistan and falls victim to a terrible attack, it is up to his younger brother Tommy to be a man and look out for his brother's grieving wife Grace (Portman) and her two young daughters.

I thought the film started off quite poorly for the majority of the first half, where essentially nothing happened, completely void of any real emotional value. The film-makers seemingly could not decide which brother's story to follow and resulted in a largely unbalanced feature. However when the two narratives eventually collided and the true extent of Sam's mental injury became painfully evident the film started to hit pace resulting in a hard hitting climax between Maguire and Portman.

The performances individually were all excellent, with Maguire truly stepping up to the plate and delivering quite a chilling, intense portrayal of the sacrifices a man will go through just to see his family again. If the film centered entirely on him I would have probably given it a much better rating. However it was after all called Brothers which put you under the illusion that this was a joint performance, and frankly it was anything but. Though I could not fault Gyllenhaal, it would have been better to see him suffer a bit or display some real conflict for a man who is dealing with being on the outside after so long in prison, I wasn't expecting something on par with Freeman in Shawshank but I was expecting a bit better than this.

One of the main problems the film does suffer is that you barely see the 'brothers' on screen together for more than 2 minutes at a time, never getting a chance to explore a possibly strained relationship from two quite drastically different people. You almost got the impression they were just causal buds than two men who grew up together.

In production terms it did look pleasing on the eye and the score from Thomas Newman was surprisingly wonderful and emotive of the surroundings and themes carried in the film, which is a compliment in itself considering U2 also contributed a song to the soundtrack.

Perhaps I am looking for more holes than there is with Brothers, but I actually think it would have worked much better as a six part HBO drama as oppose to a film running under two hours, the characters were indeed captivating but their relationships were almost completely absent.

Final Thoughts
A film of two halves in more ways than one. Despite a slow, aimless and emotionless first half, the film delivered quite a immersive final act full of tension and drama fitting of horrible consequences war can leave on someone. Though the performances were very good, the director never quite seemed to get the balance right on which brother's woes to concentrate on. Also as already mentioned it would have been nice to see Maguire and Gyllenhaal have much more screen time together as their chemistry is remarkable. Not terrible, but not brilliant either. Probably doesn't help the film follows the plot to Pearl Harbour a bit too closely for my liking.


See this if you liked...
Pearl Harbour, Jarhead, Harsh Times

Brothers is at most cinemas now.

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