Brothers - ****
Directed by: Jim Sheridan
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Toby Macguire
Review: Every once in a while you get a movie that is completely the opposite of what you thought it was gonna be and it blows you away. The last time I came across a movie like this was Bug and before that it was Inglorious Basterds. I am lucky if I get one in a year but this year I have gotten 3, that's a pretty good year by my estimation.
This movie definitely took what I thought it was and turned it on it's ear and was a very good film. Even through about 45 minutes I stil wasn't thinking it was what everyone was saying it was, but then the movie changed, literally in an instant, and from that point on I was hooked and engrossed in this film.
The movie centers around Sam Cahill (Toby MacGuire) who is a happily married father of two who is in the Marine Corps. Sam is about to be deployed back to Afghanistan again within the next week. Before he leaves though, he has to pick up his brother Tommy who is being released from jail. Tommy is the screw up of the family and has never been as good as his brother at anything. We never get the full story of why Tommy is in jail, only bits and pieces, but it is enough to realize that he screwed up and his brother Sam is in a much more enviable position with the great family and being a war hero soldier.
Sam ships off to Afghanistan and leaves his family. While in Afghanistan Sam's helicopter gets shot down and he is taken as a POW. However, this is not known to the Army and therefore his family is told that he is dead. This death takes quite a toll on the family as everyone goes through the "thinking it but not saying it" thought that the wrong son died. Why couldn't it be Tommy instead? This no doubt haunts Tommy as well as he has accepted who he is and where he is in life.
Eventually Sam escapes and is returned home to find Tommy having turned over a new leaf and now is a big part of Sam's family life. This is where the movie starts to turn (and where I got truly sucked in) so I will stop with the plot explanation there.
Seeing the trailer and knowing what I did of the plot I thought this movie was going to be your typical "is my brother sleeping with my wife" cheating, paranoid, revenge movie, but I was positively proven wrong. This movie is more about how war can change a man and how that affects everyone around you after you come back. When Sam returns he is a different person, his wife feels differently about him and his kids are scared by him. He is noticeably not the same, but won't let on why he has changed so much.
I have never had an immediate family member in the Armed Forces let alone come back from combat in the war, so I could not imagine how much of a toll that would take on someone mentally and how much that would affect the family when that person returned. It is definitely something that has been a part of movies in the past but has not been the focal point. When it has, the results have been great (see: Born on the 4th of July), and this movie is no exception.
The performances by Gyllenhaal, Macguire, and Natalie Portman are all phenomenal. They were powerful enough to get their emotions across but yet understated enough to seem real. You could easily see how these characters act as the way they would actually be in this situation in real life. There are some incredibly powerful scenes in this movie and it is the actors ability to keep themselves in control of these characters that allow them to be plausible and not skip off into cheesy or dramatic. I did not think I was going to enjoy this film very and I really, really did. It comes highly recommended and is definitely worth your time.