Review: Brothers

Brothers is heart-wrenching.  Heart-wrenching and painful, full of loss and regret and rebuilding your life and what a person will do to get back to their family.  It’s a lot of things but most of all it’s a damn good movie.  A very simple plot with the depth some of the best actors today can give.

Simple equation.  Add Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey McGuire to anything, and it’s going to be better.   I saw the trailer, and as I mentioned last week, it was interesting but too melodramatic.  I actually wasn’t going to see this one but I noticed the director had also done My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father (more on that later).  SOLD!

A marine (Tobey McGuire) has been assigned back to Afghanistan, taking him away from his two small daughters and his young wife (Natalie Portman).   While there, his helicopter crashes and he’s presumed dead.  Filling the void at home is the marine’s ex-con brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is trying to be a better man and grow up for his family’s sake.  Jake and Natalie start getting close and that’s a perfect time for no longer dead hubbie to return.  Let’s just say it was rough in the Middle East and he’s not handling it so good.  Tension, accusations, and intensity round out the rest of the story.

On paper, this is a made for TV movie.  Guy presumed dead, brother moves in and gets cozy, guy comes back.  Hilarity ensues.  Cue Tori Spelling.  But thankfully that’s not the case here at all.  I think what saves this movie is the actors and their ability to rise above soap opera theatre.  You feel for these people.  You understand their actions, right to the very end.

Not much I can say about the acting that you wouldn’t probably assume already.  Natalie Portman plays a woman dealing with loss while trying to raise her two daughters and she does it beautifully.  My favourite part was how she tried to come to grips with this man that was her husband and was trying to be again but the path wasn’t very clear to get there.  Mr. Spiderman McGuire was amazing (amazing Spiderman…get it?  No?  dammit).  You couldn’t go through what he went through and not come out a different person.  He could have easily been played as the bad guy (the trailer does a great job of that) but that doesn’t happen for a moment.  Gyllenhaal also stepped up accompanied by an always great Sam Shepard, Mare “remember me from St. Elmo’s Fire” Winningham and the two daughters which were cute without being annoying.

A “small” movie in scope but impactful from beginning to end.  You’ll get pulled in to these characters and the time will feel like it flies by.

 3 stars– good movie, take a friend. You can definitely wait for this to come out on video but make a note of it now to see it when you can.  There aren’t a lot of good war movies coming out these days so take them while you can.

Coming Attractions:
The Book of Eli (release date: January 15, 2010) – Denzel Washington as Mad Max…plus Mila “hotter since the 70s show” Kunis, plus Gary “I’m good in anything including home movies” Oldman, plus Jennifer “Flashdance and I’m not really gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that” Beals…plus why are you making me type anymore?  You’re going to go see it.

Randomly Recommended
Beautiful Girls (1996) – second memorable movie from Natalie Portman after The Professional.  A group of adults return for a high school reunion (cliché I know) and come to grips with their lives not really being what they wanted.   A great cast of actors that have never really been A-list but always make a movie better.  Portman plays jailbait.

In the Name of the Father (1993) – Second great collaboration between director Jim Sheridan and Daniel Day Lewis.  True story of the Guildford Four who were falsely accused and imprisoned for an IRA bombing.  The relationship between Day Lewis and his father, played by Pete Postlethwaite is worth the rental alone.  And it’s awesome.

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  1. Alright…I’ll rent it. But only because you said so.

    I’ll always eager to see McGuire act, instead of…well…Spiderman.

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