Brothers (2009) Poster

(I) (2009)

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Powerful movie, great individual performances, a few flaws
ericjams5 December 2009
The trio of Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Macguire and Natalie Portman got me very excited for this film, and from an acting standpoint, they did not disappoint. The script gives Macguire the most to work with as the family man/Marine, Sam Cahill, whose latest trip to Afghanistan sees him imprisoned by the Taliban and ultimately returned to America with some serious psychological issues. While he is MIA, his wife, Grace, (Portman) and ex-con brother, Tommy, (Gyllenhaal) are told he is dead, and the two grow closer, eventually verging on emotional and physical attachment.

Ultimately, the movie is an emotional ringer. Sam returns to a family that wants to love him, but his walls are up, he's been through a lot and its his brother the fun loving Uncle Tommy who Sam's children want to play with. A quick note, Sheridan the director makes great use of the two daughters as comic breaks in otherwise terribly tense situations. Our theater was laughing at the kids and it felt to me, as though we needed that laughter to balance out the gloom. There are a few climaxes, some extremely tense family dinners and finally a final gripping scene where Sam is pushed to the brink, he distrusts his wife, assumes his brother is sleeping with her, and no longer can see the humor in his elementary aged children, can he hold on?

Its a touching film and a sad film, but it probably could have been a bit better. The script and title of the film suggest a big tension or interplay between the brothers. I found the brother relationship lacking in substance, and I thought the ingredients for some serious tension and emotional pain were in place but were never put to use. Sam Shepard does well as the Vietnam Vet father, but all he really does is establish his love for his son, the Marine, and his disdain for his son, the ex-con. There was so much more that he could have done, his role seems intentionally diminished. Portman is great as usual, but arguably miscast, as she doesn't belong cast into a film where she is not supposed to think. She's a thinking woman's actress and here she is left observing, we know she knows, but her character must play it clueless.

I cried, and wanted the story to continue, as there seems to be a bit left to this story when the film fades away. Both signs that the movie was enjoyable and touching. The growth of Gyllenhaal as the ex-con who is on the rise, adjusting to life on the outside and acting as a surrogate father in the absence of Macguire is nicely juxtaposed with Macguire's devolution into post-traumatic stress ridden torment. Watch the Oscar nods roll in, but I think, if anything, the movie may win individual awards, as the product as a whole falls quite a bit short of award winning status.
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Did anyone know that Tobey could act?
sclark-4112 December 2009
What drew me to this movie was the cast of Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman, two phenomenal actors in their own regards. The only expectation that I had going into see this film was that I would be unimpressed by Tobey Maguire. Having seen him in several films (including Spider-Man), I must say that I wasn't prepared for the incredible performance he provided.

This movie was very simplistic. Nothing flashy, no real special effects, small amounts of simple guitar music as a soundtrack. But it conveyed a whole roller coaster of emotions from the beginning. The growth of Jake Gyllenhaal's character, the anguish displayed by Natalie Portman, the palpable pain and suffering by Tobey Maguire, and the fear and anger displayed by the eight-year-old Bailee Madison all combine for a very gripping tale.

Many regard this movie as anti-war. I simply do not see it as such. Soldiers are praised for their heroism on the battlefield (which they completely deserve), but all too often the wounds they suffer physically and mentally are disregarded. This movie illustrates the very real problem of the mental health of our service men and women, and the problems it causes in family dynamics.
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'Brothers' showcases strong, solid performances
d_art23 February 2010
Based on the Danish film, Brødre, Tobey Maguire plays Sam Cahill, a marine who goes off to Afghanistan and allegedly is killed in action. His brother Tommy, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, an ex-con, winds up looking after Sam's wife, Grace (Natalie Portman) and her daughters. As the story moves on, Tommy's negative attitude toward her and his outlook changes and their relationship develops. When Sam, who is found to be alive, returns home, there's a mixture of both joy and resentment among the characters, but to add, Sam has returned a changed and psychologically-damaged man.

The film mainly focuses on the family drama and relationships of the characters, inter-cut with scenes of Sam in action and imprisoned/tortured in Afghanistan. The progression of the plot takes its time to develop, but it feels organic. The characters feel real. While one could see the film as a criticism of war and the negative effects that war has on the family of veterans, the film is more a character-driven drama, and doesn't touch much into politics.

Admittedly, the plot itself isn't anything drastically new and one may imagine a plot like this in a made-for-TV drama if not for the emotional depth, intensity, and solid performances from Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Natalie Portman. One of the interesting plot points involve the brothers' father's (in a fine performance from Sam Shepard) favoritism for Sam, while looking down on Tommy as the "failure." The love/hate dynamics between the three are interesting and believable even as the two brothers go through drastic character changes.

Tobey Maguire's performance is particularly noteworthy as Sam, a marine and a loving husband who comes back transformed into a physically emaciated, psychologically-scarred, ticking time bomb. My image of Tobey as Spider-Man now feels like a distant memory especially in comparison to what he portrays here. The two children who play the two daughters of Sam in this film give very natural performances in their varied reactions to difficult situations around them. Jake Gyllenhaal does strong work as Tommy, whose character transformation makes us want to root for him, despite his shady beginnings and flaws. To top off, Natalie Portman is radiant here, turning in a poignant, complex performance as a mother of two, who must deal with the initial mourning of her husband, the joy of his return, and the messy aftermath. Ultimately, her nuanced performance is the glue that holds the film together and make the other characters matter, and one can't help but marvel at the maturity of her performance.

Directed by Jim Sheridan (The Boxer), this film is a great showcase for all performances involved, while portraying an engaging, intense story about familial loyalty, redemption, and difficult relationships. In the wrong hands, this film could've gone the route of the by-the-numbers Hollywood cliché, but as it is, it remains a solid drama. I give Brothers *** out of **** stars.

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a triumph of acting over story
Quinoa198410 December 2009
Brothers is something we may have seen before - if not in its original incarnation from Denmark in 2004 then The Deer Hunter - then it is something that surprises just on the vulnerability, subtlety and ferocity of the actors in their roles. It's not about what the trailer pushes, which is an affair between a guy (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his sister in law (Natalie Portman) while the one guy's brother (Tobey Maguire) is away at war. There is one scene of that, but that's not really what the film is 'about' per-say. It's about the personal affects of war on one man, a horrific tragedy that befalls him, and how he has to live with that the rest of his life, specifically in front of his wife and children. Maguire's Sam says it simply towards the end: "Only the dead see the end of war. I have seen the end of War. How do I go on living?"

If I may have spoiled the message of the movie- and in its own microcosm way it's as anti-war (or perhaps just anti-torture) as it could get in modern movies- it shouldn't detract from the pleasures of Brothers. This is seeing the actors- Portman, Gyllenhaal, Sam Shephard, especially Maguire- fill in these characters with enough depth and passions and fears and desires and ghosts that make them more than real to us. That's not just their achievement but director Jim Sheridan's. He lets his players breathe life into characters who, while not wooden or two-dimensional by any stretch, need that extra push as seen in David Benioff's characterizations and scenarios. Family life, its fragility and it's equal amount of love and self-torment, is what counts (again, Deer Hunter), and it's this that works in the film.

A word though about Tobey Maguire. I'm not the only critic pointing him out, and it goes without saying he's not the only worthwhile actor in the cast (there's even performances by the girls playing Sam's kids that are extraordinary). But it's the transformation that really counts. Perhaps it's noteworthy that both brothers do transform in the film, as Tommy, the ex-con, goes from being a drunken nobody to stepping up to help his brother's barely-holding-it-together wife after the news that her husband is dead, while Sam is in the downward spiral. It's crucial too that Sheridan shows those scenes in Afghanistan that cause Sam to change so radically as he does (the way they're inter-cut in the at-home narrative is a little uneasy, one of the flaws of the film), so that we see a good person shrunk down to his deepest, darkest depths.

When that last third comes around, it's electrifying how intense Maguire can get, even when he's just in his insinuating mode ala Jake LaMotta of accusing his brother of adultery. For anyone just looking at Maguire as Spider-Man's Peter Parker must give this a look to see his range; indeed a double feature of Brothers and Seabiscuit will show how Maguire is one of the most underrated actors under forty in Hollywood. If the role calls for it, as it does here, he goes to town, a you-can't-blame-him Oscar bait performance.
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Loyalty, love, faithfulness, duty, pain, grief. Well above average but not outstanding
cl77716 February 2010
Brothers, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire, is an interesting and profound drama about family values, war, and relationships. The acting is fantastic. I had hardly heard of this movie despite its all star cast so it was a pleasant surprise for me.

As the title implies, it is about two brothers, portrayed by Gyllenhaal and Maguire, whose lives have taken them to different sides of the tracks- Jake's character has recently been released from jail and Tobey is a devoted family and army man. Natalie Portman plays his lovely wife. When Tobey is sent away to Afghanistan and rapidly presumed dead, the plot thickens.

Back at home, with everybody trying to cope and go on with their lives, nothing will ever be the same. I will not write any more on the subject because although I found what happens next very predictable, you should still guess for yourselves.

The entire cast plays superbly. Tobey undergoes a massive physical transformation and looks completely emaciated as he depicts the mental decline of someone who has lived through too much horror. He shows us the mental destruction caused by war and his metamorphosis is truly scary at times. Jake is really excellent as his sincere brother, torn between passion and brotherly love, guilt and devotion. The two young girls who play Tobey and Natalie's daughters were very impressive and are earning lots of praise.

The supporting characters are less developed and the father seems to have just two states of emotion- praise and admiration for his army son and disdain for the ex-convict. This is the downside that I saw in Brothers- that it tended to oversimplify many issues and too often contented itself with merely scratching the surface. For instance, though I have never been in a war so I cannot say for sure, the Taliban scenes seemed fake to me.

Loyalty, love, faithfulness, duty, pain, grief, sorrow, joy. All of these are present in this well above average but not outstanding film.

My rating: 8 Fabio's: 7.5 Total score: 15.5 Please read more reviews at
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A decent movie
warthogjump12 January 2010
Brothers is a decent movie showing the trauma both a soldier and his family face due to Tobey Maguire's "job" as a marine. Although the script could have been improved and more drama could have been added throughout the movie, the actors in Brothers deliver superbly.

Tobey Maguire is rumored to be mentioned at the Oscars and his performance probably deserves it, especially during his "break down" scene. Natalie Portman as the wife and Sam Shepard acting as the father also deliver plausible and emotional performances. Carey Mulligain, who I almost did not recognise, plays a cameo role and Clifton Collins Jnr also makes a brief appearance.

If you haven't watched the trailer for this film, do not watch it as it gives much away. Also, do not read about this movie much before you watch it either. The less you know about Brothers, the better its plot will unfold.

I also must point out that although Tobey Maguire is the one with the Golden Globe nomination and rumoured Oscar nomination, Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a much more subtle, and on the whole, a better performance than Tobey. He seemed to connect me more to his character with some comedic lines, gentle eyes and genuine acts of redemption. I rate Brothers one star higher because of Jake and if it were up to me, he'd get a supporting actor nomination.

Don't expect a masterpiece like The Deer Hunter, but if you're looking for some new, depressive entertainment, then Brothers is a good flick...It had potential and it delivered on most of it; however, some potential was also left unaccounted for.
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Guilt and Forgiveness
bobt1454 December 2009
Two brothers, one returning from prison, one heading as a Marine to Afghanistan.

This film is apparently a remake of a Danish film that had the same story line.

But it didn't have Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal! Maguire reaches into the darkest corners of his soul to flesh out the good brother, the Marine, who returns from Afghanistan with a staggering burden of guilt.

Gyllenhaal is amazing, transforming an angry, unsure ex-con into a believable figure of redemption, slowly growing before our eyes as the story unfolds.

Natalie Portman is excellent and look for Carey Mulligan's four minutes of screen time.

This is not an anti-war film except in the sense that any film that shows war either glorifies it unrealistically or jars us into questioning, if it is realistic. The scenes in Afghanistan seem authentic. The tortures are not so so graphic as some of the other reviews imply. They will cause you to wince, but its good film making, not microscopic detail.

I want to search out Susanne Bier's 2005 film "Broedre"--it can't lessen the impact of this one, however.
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A Teen Remake of "Brødre"
claudio_carvalho23 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The family man Marine Captain Sam Cahil (Tobey Maguire) is happily married with his beloved Grace (Natalie Portman) and adores his two daughters Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare). His younger brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) has just left prison on probation for bank robbery and has issues with his father Hank (Sam Shepard). Grace does not like him either but Sam invites Tommy to have dinner at home with their family. When Sam is sent back to Afghanistan, his helicopter crashes and he is considered missing in action and presumed dead. However, he is captured with friend Private Joe Willis (Patrick Flueger) and they are submitted to all sort of tortures, culminating with Sam killing Joe with a bar. Meanwhile Tommy comforts Grace and the children and he becomes close to Sam's family. When Sam is rescued by the American soldiers, he comes back home completely paranoid, psychotic, introspective and without feeling or affection for his family. Further, he is convinced that Grace and Tommy have had sex during his absence. When Isabelle lies during a family dinner about the relationship of Grace and Tommy to upset her father, the disturbed Sam triggers an intense paranoia jeopardizing his family, Tommy and himself.

"Brothers" is a powerful drama about family dynamics destroyed by war. I discover that this good movie is based on Susanne Bier's "Brødre" that I have not seen yet. Jim Sheridan shows again his ability to work with children, the same way he did in "In America" and the girls Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare have awesome performances. Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Sam Shepard have top-notch performances, giving credibility to the story. Now I expect to see the original Danish movie to compare with the American version. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Entre Irmãos" ("Between Brothers")

Revised review after watching "Brødre":

"Brothers" is actually a teen remake of "Brødre". Tobey Maguire is completely miscast in the role of a marine captain despite his great performance. In the original movie, Ulrich Thomsen is a mature man with face of man in the role of a major, and not a "babyface" in the role of a captain. Jim Sheridan filmed practically frame by frame the film of Susanne Bier, but replacing adult and realistic situations with shallow trivializations to adequate the story to the American society. In his version, just as an example, Grace and Tommy smoke marijuana when they kiss each other instead of the emotional situation of the original story. Or the motive why Sam is forced by his captors to kill Joe Willis in the Afghan camp. The open conclusion in the original movie is another plus. The impact of "Brothers" is totally different for those that have not seen "Brødre" My vote is six.
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a generally faithful remake of the Danish original
Buddy-5122 August 2010
"Brothers" is an American remake of an excellent Danish drama from 2004. As the title suggests, the story centers on two male siblings who are essentially polar opposites of one another. Sam (Tobey Maguire) is an upright family man and lifelong Marine who has already served one tour in Afghanistan and is all set to embark on a second. Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a ne'er-do-well ex-con who's released from prison on the very same week Sam is being re-deployed to the battlefield, leaving a wife (Natalie Portman) and two young daughters (the delightful Bailee Madison and Taylor Grace Geare) behind at home. When news comes that Sam has been killed in a helicopter crash, Tommy is there to help pick up the pieces, leading to some potential romantic complications between him and his brother's grieving widow, Grace. But that turns out to be only half the story, as anyone familiar with the Danish version already knows.

Written by David Benioff and directed by Jim Sheridan, "Brothers" follows the original fairly closely in terms of outline and incident, focusing on one man's attempts to turn his life around after making a mess of things, and another's efforts to come to terms with an action he performed under duress that his conscience will clearly never allow him to live with. The complex relationships among the three principal players - along with Sam's Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - are dealt with in an adult and thoughtful fashion, with a minimum of melodrama and nary a hint of sensationalism. The conflicts are further exacerbated by the men's father (Sam Shepherd), a hardnosed Vietnam vet whose personal preference for Sam over Tommy has been evident to both boys from very early on in their lives.

"Brothers" reveals its European roots in its more deliberate pacing, its emotional complexity, its lack of judgment towards its characters, and its willingness to leave some loose ends hanging at the end. Maguire and Gyllenhaal are both excellent as the two torn brothers trying to stay close despite their differences - as are Portman, Shepherd and Mare Winningham as the boys' loving and conciliatory step mom whose calming influence over her husband goes a long way towards ameliorating some otherwise potentially volatile situations.
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Underwhelmed by this one
hharch17 April 2011
I saw the original Danish production and was blown away by the power of it. Mind you, Connie Neillsen does that to me anyway, but the whole film resonated; right casting, masterly portrayal of the terrible but critical war scenes and above all a superbly moving ending. The ending of this one fell flat.

When I read that the Americans are going to do a remake of a European film, I reach for my luger. I dreaded seeing what they'd do to this one. And sure enough, they delivered. It's as though art in a film won't wash with American audiences, so the Hollywood boys have to dumb it down and denature it to make it passable. It doesn't wash with me. I like the two lead male actors but the direction and scripting let them down. The only grounds for making a remake is to do it better than the original. This one doesn't measure up.
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Finally an adult film with good script, cast and direction
gilko9 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I was not looking forward to this film (another anti-military anti-war film) but this is none of that! It is a wonderful story of people and their relationships and emotions. The story is beautifully told and the cast is uniformly wonderful although it seemed at first the brothers might better have switched parts but as the plot unfolds the casting is perfect. The plot: In a family of a retired Marine Sgt (Sam Shepard) there are two sons (Toby Maguire) an active duty Captain and a Ex con wastrel (Jake Guillenhaal) who gets out of prison as his brother is about to return to the war in Afghanistan. When his brother is lost in Afghanistan the brother slowing steps up to support the wife and two girls. When Maguire Is found alive months later the dynamic of the family is greatly changed as the whole family works out the complications of their lives. This is one of the best pictures of the year, dramatic, involving, with good dialog and scene; and the actors and director play them to the hilt.
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Spoiled by the ending
eucalyptus915 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I watched the original Danish version of this film some time ago. Connie Neilsen was stunning as the wife, Nikolas Lie Kaaj was good as the brother, and Ulrich Thomsen fitted the role of the Captain like a glove - mature, grave and, upon his return, with a sense of foreboding. In this remake, Natalie Portman is superb, while Jake Gyllenhaal, Sam Shepard and the 2 kids are all excellent. But Tobey Maguire is no Ulrich Thomsen. It's not that he's a bad actor, it's just that casting him as Captain Cahill of the Marines was akin to picking Russell Crowe to play Rudolph Nureyev in the film version of "Swan Lake".

The other aspect in which seeing the Danish version first somewhat spoiled the remake was that a number of scenes were changed, some in only minor ways, but none for the better - the killing, the rescue, the post-rescue de-briefing and counselling (omitted here), the visit of the Captain to the private's wife and son. Most of all, in the Danish film, the whole movie was geared towards the revelations at the end, and when they came, they were emotional and powerful. In this film, it seems as though the producers ran out of time, or out of money, or out of interest. "I killed him." That's it. The End. Major disappointment.

Pity, because it was quite a good story and quite a good film. I'd have given it 7, but that ending dumped it down to 5.
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Earnest but perhaps trying a little too hard
mdh31018 December 2009
Just OK. Very well acted particularly by Gyllenhaal, Portman, and the two young 'uns, and a compelling tale of how war can mess up a family, but a little too melodramatic to hold much power for me.

There's also the misjudged Afghan side story, which is populated by cartoon characters. It might have worked better had we been kept completely in the dark as to the soldier's fate, to be put in the same position as the wife and brother. As it is we are simply sitting waiting for his inevitable (rather than hoped-for) return and we know any emotional investment during this buildup will be wasted. It feels almost tacked on - did they need to give Maguire more to do? He's the best I've ever seen him btw, but I didn't find him as convincing as the other two leads who had a more nuanced story to work with.
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The Irish make good American storytellers
Philby-329 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
CAUTION: Possible spoilers

The Irish director Jim Sheridan knows how to tell a story ("My Left Foot" and "In the Name of the Father") and he makes good use of his talents in this re-make of a Danish Dogme style film "Brode" originally directed by Suzanne Bier. The story here is of two brothers, one an upright (and uptight) soldier in the Marine core (Tobey Macguire), the other a shiftless ex-con (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose relationship is altered for the better after the soldier suffers trauma in Afghanistan. At first, Tobey is reported killed, and Jake, almost without thinking about it, moves to take his place. Then when Tobey turns up, having had his mind seriously messed with by the Taliban, Jake helps him through some pretty bad moments. Jake gets close to both Tobey's perky children and his improbably beautiful wife (Natalie Portman) but he manages to stay out of her bed.

Their crusty old ex- Marine father, played by Sam Shepherd, with his constant put-downs of Jake and uncritical admiration of Tobey, is clearly part of Jake's problem. Ultimately though, the brothers have to work things out between themselves.

The story is well put together though some of the Afghanistan scenes were rather awkwardly inter-cut with the action back home. Jim Sheridan doesn't examine the right and wrongs of the US being in Afghanistan except to have a Taliban translator tell Tobey "you shouldn't be in our country". That might be a no-brainer as far as Iraq is concerned but Afghanistan is a different case – for that matter Mohammed Atta and his friends shouldn't have been in the US on 9/11. Anyway, Sheridan is more interested in the personal story of the brothers and he tells this in absorbing fashion.

Tobey and Jake are fine as the brothers and Natalie Portman puts in a good performance as Tobey's wife, as do Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare as her two young daughters. I thought the story was set in Minnesota but it seems location filming was done in New Mexico where it also snows in winter (but is not quite so cold). I haven't seen the Danish film but this version stands up well on its own, is likely to have better production values, and of course it is more accessible to an American audience.
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A Nutshell Review: Brothers
DICK STEEL23 January 2010
A remake of the Danish film Brodre, what this version boasts is the star presence of Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal as the titular brothers Sam and Tommy Cahill, with Natalie Portman starring as the former's wife Grace, in what would be some powerful dramatic performances delivered by all three actors in a story that deals with the pain of loss, the exhilaration of purpose, love and family, and the confusion that comes when jealousy starts to creep in a relationship no thanks to the presence of another man in one's home.

Tobey Maguire plays Captain Sam Cahill, who is bidding his family of wife Grace and kids Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare) farewell before he ships out for his tour of duty in Afghanistan. A well respected Marine, he's actually looking forward to this return to the war zone (talk about that addiction to war last seen in The Hurt Locker) to fulfil his belief in the fight for freedom to keep America safe, and is the pride of his parents Hank (Sam Shepard) and Elsie (Mare Winningham) as compared to his good for nothing brother Tommy who's just released from prison, and bumming around to find what he could do when he's out in society.

Then comes the tragic news that Sam's Blackhawk helicopter went crashing down into a river, and the devastation that event had on the surviving family members. This of course provided director Jim Sheridan to cover some pseudo-Afghanistan war scenes and making some statements about the war on terror, but also allowed for Portman and Shepard to showcase their acting chops, in particular Portman as you can feel that level of pain with the sudden cutting short of a young person's life, and of course the reverse when excellent, unbelievable news came her way.

Brothers is an excellent character study piece which both Maguire and Gyllenhaal fleshed out their roles in stark contrast toward each other and the drawing of parallels in their characters as the film progressed. One's calm and collected, but affected by recent experiences in guilt and blame to finally explode in "Bale Out" style, while the other's laissez-faire approach to life suddenly found some purpose when he subconsciously took it upon himself to look after his brother's family, so much so that it borders extremely close to that of being a surrogate husband and substitute father figure, yet endearing himself to the family as he grows into a better, likable person. It is this constant, tense "will he or won't he" questioning that will keep you engaged in the film, and then again with the pivotal turning point that will introduce elements of jealousy and needless suspicion into a relationship.

There are plenty of memorable scenes in this film, which I thought made it stand out amongst the crowd. One involves all the principal characters gathering over the dinner table in conversation, and the dynamics of everything, and I mean everything, was magic, from how the scene was shot, edited and especially down to the roles that the kids play, with kids Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare almost always stealing the thunder from the veteran actors with their antics.

Granted that the assumption of death and how it screws up a relationship is nothing new (heck, even Michael Bay found time to squeeze it into his action packed Pearl Harbor), it boiled down to the excellent performances all round to deliver an emotionally powerful film. You'll feel that intense fury and worry when the film hits its crescendo, and for that alone it's worth the price of an admission ticket. Highly recommended!
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Please watch the original film Brødre instead
ib_w629 August 2010
Please watch the original film Brødre (2004) by Susanne Bier instead. It's in Danish with English subtitles. It's more authentic and characters are depicted more in depth. Typically, it's a subtitled gem overlooked by a domestic audience. There was no need for a remake in the first place other than to embrace most of the ignorant American audience. Pardon my french. Most of you will be familiar with Connie Nielsen. However, Ulrich Thomsen is the most important character and does a superb acting in Brødre by changing the nature of his character. You can pick it up on Amazon but make sure to get in a format supported by your DVD-player.
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Spielergian in its artifice. Watch and weep.
Good-Will28 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone having seen Schindler's List will know that its sole purpose was to instill a sense of catharsis. Spielberg tugs away at your heartstrings so hard that eventually you bow down before the film simply due to emotional pressure.

Spielberg embellished the ending of the well researched factual book by Thomas Keneally to appeal to the sense in all of us that we need to believe that some noble people made great sacrifices and took enormous risks during the holocaust.

We know that. There's no need to exaggerate.

This film does exactly the same thing, but in a way which is so cack-handed that logic starts to intrude into the audience's mind. And although logic doesn't make great drama, it stands in the way of hyperbole with a big stick and beats it to a pulp when it matters.

And the issues and emotions raised in this film DO matter.

Unfortunately there are so many emotional violins playing in the background that the sweeping orchestral piece that this film could have been is simply drowned out. Someone, somewhere needs to ask why the title of this film was so named. The bonds between the two brothers need to be established in more than a 2 minute car journey. The history of the characters needs to compel us to empathise with them. The post traumatic stress disorder condition and the modern treatment for it (Good or bad) needs to be shown.

Otherwise this becomes another one of those worthy but pointless tear-jerking melodramas that some people love to love. See the other user comments.

Personally, I didn't feel any empathy for any of the cardboard cutout characters or the dialogue during the wince inducing "Family round the dinner tale" scenes.

In short: Soldier kills fellow soldier in order to survive but feels guilty and gets a bit messed up with his relationship with his wife and brother.

What an amazing insight into the human soul.....

Unless you are a director/screenwriter who wants to get those heartstrings and just pull..pull..pull..........
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scooter_d7 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
After reading several of the recent votes for this film, I've realized that most of the viewers see this more of an entertainment piece and have not absorbed the message. Having been a witness to the actions that Sam displayed on screen these are incredibly accurate, to the perfect alignment and position to the glasses and mugs in the new kitchen, the gun drawn when the dog was barking outside, the smashing of the kitchen, the anger and paranoia (of Tommy and his wife and the anger and belligerence with the police). Even the self-abuse when Sam was hitting himself out of frustration. We noticed at the dinner table when he first arrived home that he didn't have the humor he once possessed when his daughter was relating the dog and the elephant. He never wanted to hurt anyone but was still holding the fire poker because a side of him probably wanted to kill everyone who was in his way and also when he put the gun to his head. Tommy and Sam say throughout the film "you're my brother" because the writer wanted to emphasize that Sam still has the human attachment to people but is now withdrawn because of his experiences. I only hope that more people will see that this is how too many of our servicemen and woman are coming home to. This was a remarkable, emotional, and realistic to what really happens.
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What a waste of time
mspieway6 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I have so many questions & concerns about this movie. Why is the soldier declared dead, instead of MIA? Obviously no body was found. Why does the military conduct a funeral? Why does the loser brother hang around so much? Why does the wife attempt to dump her 'goody two-shoes' image and smoke pot with the ex-con drunk brother-in-law? Who thought up the scene of the fatal beating in the terrorist camp? Why did the film have to rely on such clichés as: *ex-Marine dad favoring one son. *wife & bro-in-law getting it on. *creepy-looking daughter not getting any help in reconnecting w/her dad(hey thanks prev poster, i forgot all about the creepy daughter & her way-too-adult commentary about 'mom would rather sleep w/uncle' at the dining table=what drivel!). *wife kissing war scars on back. *dead soldier buddy's wife with dreams too close to the truth. Why is soldier not told that his dead buddy's wife is visiting?

Also, it took a very short time till wife gives his clothes away. Yet she did not have the will to read his last letter to her?

All in all, another war movie made by Hollywood, not by soldiers! As for the stars, Portman is a stone face, brings no acting skills at all. McGuire is overboard with the haunted thin look (yet no one seems to think he is ready to crack & leaves a gun around?). Gyllenhal (sp?) for some reason, irritated me no end, playing the cocky son to his (justified) father's disgust.

Save your money, don't waste your time.
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pepekwa4 November 2010
I'm a big fan of Jim Sheridan films, and this had a superb cast so expectations were high for this movie. Unfortunately for me, it never got going and some of that has to be attributed to casting. Tobey Maguire still looks like a 14 year old weakling so I couldn't see him as this veteran marine captain. Similarly, Jake Gylenhall is too much of a nice guy to play a convicted felon, maybe he wasn't meant to "threaten" here but was too nice in the role for me.

A movie like this is all about empathy but there wasn't enough character development or plot scenarios to get me that interested in the characters, it was only in the last 35 minutes that Sam started to lose the plot but the high drama I was expecting just didn't materialize and in the end I was pleased the film ended when it did and it didn't meander on some more. Sure the effect of PTSD is a challenging topic to cover but with the cast and resources at the director's disposal, this goes down as a big disappointment for me.
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Hugely disappointing tear squeezer.
raimund-berger1 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Again, we're getting a melange of themes well covered by so many previous films. The good and the bad son story, courtesy East of Eden. The American marine hero story, who doesn't consider himself to be one due to what he knows. And the grieving wife potentially falling in love with another man story.

The mere fact of those stories being that ubiquitous isn't so much of a problem though. Because theoretically they could still be better presented and dealt with each time around. No luck this time though, as all three of those threads ultimately fall flat all the same.

As the bad son never really gets to talk to his father, so that conflict is never resolved properly. Apart from the father kind of starting to appreciate the bad son thanks to the latter renovating the kitchen of the grieving wife. Now, how satisfying is that.

Next, the surprisingly homecoming marine suspecting his wife of unfaithfulness conflict never gets resolved. Because he never really talks to the man under suspicion, namely his own brother. So once more we're handed a loose end here.

And finally, the American military heroism hypocrisy theme, where the marine is publicly considered a hero when, due to the dirtiness of war he went through, he shouldn't really be called one as to his own standards, that third theme falls flat just the same. Because the movie ends right when, for the first time, he's just able to talk to his wife about what he went through. Where the real story would actually begin at that very point, namely his process of recovery, how that would look like and how he would finally face the family he'd have some major guilt to admit to. All that, all the really interesting bits are passed over and getting ignored.

So while story wise this film is a serious, and I mean serious, disappointment, I'd still give it points for the impressive cast. Although no film should use Maguire for a voice over, because that belongs to Spiderman. Especially a grown up Gyllenhaal seems to fulfill all the expectations he aroused as a young and aspiring actor. So much that I'd in fact love to see him entrusted with a really deep and demanding lead role of proper profile.

So while the cast really seems to do what they can, I consider this film totally forgettable otherwise. A shallow and ultimately pretentious, utterly unsatisfying tear squeezer indeed. Message du jour to the writers: we know the wounds already, see the host of Vietnam films. You want to earn some credit, show us a believable healing.
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A touching movie about the true meaning of brotherly love.
Rafacus4 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Brothers is the 2nd War themed movie of 2009 to emphasize the human psyche over guts and glory. Where Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers faltered at bringing home the sense of loss and devastation that the wives and mothers endure during wartime, Jim Sheridan nails it by keeping it personal in this film. There are no glorious shootouts, or supermen taking out hundreds with a pistol through a hailstorm of shrapnel. What we get is the premise of loyalty, bravery and sacrifice through soldier and civilian alike in a powerful drama appropriately named for the love between Tommy and Sam.

It strategically starts with a contrast to play on our assumptions. The sharp, dedicated and disciplined soldier in Sam Cahill swings by the jailhouse to pick up his tattooed, wise-cracking drunk of a brother in Tommy. The two don't say much as they drive home to reunite with family but the tiny exchanges and generally awesome acting by both Jake Gyllenhaal and Toby Maguire gives you the feeling that these two are very close. Ultimately it is all that is needed for the audience, so when the hardened military father comes down on his failure of a son (Tommy) it isn't surprising that it's his "good son", the war hero (Sam) that bridges the rift between the two. The beautiful and talented Natalie Portman plays the part of Sam's wife Grace, a mother to 2 cute daughters in Isabelle (Bailie Madison) and her younger sister Maggie (Taylor Geare). The kids are smart and Isabelle especially is beyond her years, they are saddened upon hearing that their dad is to be deployed but it all dissipates when he tucks them into bed lovingly. It is the setup for the meat and potatoes of Brothers when Sam becomes a prisoner of war assumed dead and his brother Tommy is there to pick up the broken pieces at home with his family.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Toby Maguire really show their acting chops throughout this story. The awkward familiarity of the misunderstood bad-boy that is Tommy was as believable as the calm, zen-like, monk of a soldier that is Sam. The chemistry was cooking whenever they shared a scene and between the similarity of their looks and the dramatic situations that they played out I found myself fully immersed into their struggles to cope. The father played by Sam Shepard was equally impressive as the old, battered war vet, Portman as the strong wife and her children (who were given much camera time), played their respective roles convincingly.

Brothers is real drama and though there are a few supporting characters, it never veers away from the core family. With the movie taking place in 2007, and our recent push into Afghanistan, the relevance will be there for a lot of people who have loved ones in action or soon to be. I cannot use the word Oscar bait for Brothers, though the release date and heavy drama may lead one to feel this way. What I found Brothers to be was a beautiful drama with tones as heavy as any other well written movie that I can think of. Toby Maguire must have put his body through hell to look the way he does on this movie – rail thin, crazed and sickly. For me Brothers was a salute to acting, good story and the power to evoke emotion from an audience. Great dialogue, a few twists and turns along with a decent score – the things that make me love the theater. If you haven't seen this yet, I really encourage you to get out and see it, you will not be disappointed.
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Comment through stereotypisation
p-stepien21 September 2012
After an Afghanistan mission gone awry Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) is captured by enemy Taliban forces, while the US Army believes him dead. Back home Grace (Natalie Portman) tries to cope with the loss of her husband and ease the pain it brought about to her two girls: Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare). While Sam's brother, ex-convict Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), decides to comfort Grace, slowly and unintentionally the two fall for each other. After Sam is recovered from capture the would-be widow and the prodigal son must now cope with the conflicting feelings as well as the remnants of a man, that returned from Afghanistan.

"Brothers" is extremely poorly scripted, so having not seen the original version, it is hard to place blame on either Bier or Benioff as to where the responsibility lies. However certain similarities between this movie and "Haevnen" seem to point to culpability on both persons. As in the Oscar winning "Haevnen" foreign countries are used instrumentally as a plot device, nurturing all the worst stereotypes necessary in order to deliver some context for what happens in the 'civilized world'. This in itself is pretty appalling with Afghans unanimously portrayed as spineless despicable torturers and murderers, just so that Sam can have appropriate trauma after returning to the States. This essentially cause the whole foreign content of the movie to be tiresome, obtrusive and severely flawed, while at the same time not visibly most scenes not serving much purpose (the whole captured events are overdrawn and pointless and could have been sufficiently supplanted with one-two nicely constructed scenes).

What goes on in the States is an equally frustrating watch with trivial and shallow interactions predominant, so despite best intentions by Gyllenhaal and Portman the predominant soap quality of dialogue disrupt build-up. For what seems a Benioff retcon the two never actually sleep together, just exchange a single kiss, but still seem unable to discuss this with Sam on his return, while Isabelle explicitly uses lies about sexual relations between Grace and Tommy to vent frustration. There is however still one poignant culmination scene during Maggie's birthday, rife with emotions, context, acting, dynamics and tension, that makes the movie worth a watch. The promise suggested by that scene alone does also inspire to check out the original Danish movie for comparison and maybe watching a piece, which actually delivers on its promise.
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This movie has a 7 rating on IMDb? Seriously?
cherrycoke32542 April 2010
The premise was great but the screenplay was poorly thought out. There was no real concept of time, or a thorough building of the characters or of their relationships. The sign of a great movie is when it invokes feelings, thoughts, or concepts in the viewer. Heck, I even settle for sheer old entertainment value! Unfortunately, this film failed on all counts. Maybe my hopes were set too high, as I'm a fan of a good drama/ suspense thriller. I recall movies like A Perfect Murder, The Gift, and Seven being a few stand-outs from years past. Never building anything convincing, this movie was out of pace due to a heap of predictable montage scenes that conclude in a lackluster finish. ( The only exception maybe being the scene at the little girls birthday party..but still not good enough to warrant sitting through the entire movie)

Tobey McGuire's performance could be considered a slightly redeeming factor; However, even he too seems to have fallen victim to this poorly developed script.

Oh well, maybe next time Spidey.
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Miscast, cheesy and predictable mess
jgrayson_au25 March 2010
Starting with the casting, and already errors arise. Whilst I'm aware that Toby was born in 1975, he looks too young for this roll. Even Natalie Portman looks a bit young, but watching Toby, especially in the opening scenes, breaks the false reality. Toby is playing a captain, when half the privates look older than him.

Moving on from the casting, we have the story itself. It's rather predictable and slow moving. I could sum up the entire movie in about 2 paragraphs. What angered me most of all was they hinted at some potentially interesting side stories, none of which was expanded upon. The movie sticks to the main plot line, which is only about the emotions of the characters.

The dialogue is also quite predictable. Some of the lines and situations are just painful to watch. In fact the only scenes I found 'real' were the one with the friends in the kitchen. The conversations between the main characters all seemed strained at the best.

If the movie had taken the plot, and actually showed things that were talked about (for instance, how Jake ended up in jail), I would have been more forgiving. There would have been more 'stuff' in the story. As it stands though, the movie is a bare bones emotional story, with frankly not much going on, no side-stories to keep you interested, bad dialogue, and poor casting. If this had no-name actors in it it'd be on the Hallmark channel.

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