Sunday, December 13, 2009

Brothers (Review)

     The previews do not do this film justice.  I did not expect such depth or power from what seemed like a fairly simple tale of war and family.  Unfortunately, I did expect better character development and more closure from this, or any, film, and I was disappointed there.

     The storyline for "Brothers," even without giving away too much, is difficult to sum up in one or two sentences.  Tobey Maguire, who gets to really show his range as an actor, plays a marine who is shot down and captured in Afghanistan.  He spends months as a captive before American forces find him.  Meanwhile, back home, his wife, played by Natalie Portman, his two young daughters, his ex con brother, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and his parents, all believe that he died in the crash and life goes on, as much as it can.  Portman grieves, the girls get to know their 'uncle Tommy,' Gyllenhaal's character, better, and Gyllenhaal (seems to) grow and mature as he and his father reconcile somewhat.  Maguire's character eventually returns home and can not come to terms with what happened while he was being help captive.  This, of course, effects his relationship with his wife, daughters, parents, and his brother and life slowly begins to break down.  

     This all seems rather standard and predictable, I know, however, the characters, who are not what you would expect from this kind of story, make "Brothers" compelling and engaging, right up until the end, which happens far too suddenly and lacks the closure necessary for a story with this much emotional investment.  Gyllenhaal's character self destructs just before the end and foreshadows the less than satisfying ending to come.  'Uncle Tommy' seemed to be developing quite well for most of the movie, then, just before the end, we discover that his character hasn't really grown or learned anything at all, and all the emotional investment we had in him is wasted.  Shortly after that, the film builds to a climax, and then fails to deliver and we are left wondering, 'So, what's next?'  There was a moment very near the end where I though we were going to get the point of the film, which was something about brotherhood, but it's a fleeting moment and far too much of the movie is concerned with Maguire's character's dark secret for this to simply be about the bond between brothers.

     "Brothers" had a lot of potential and came very close to being a powerful and poignant film, but falls apart in the end leaving far too many loose ends and abandoning it's characters to an almost obsessive quest for an answer to the question, 'What happened in Afghanistan?'  The revelation of which is not a surprise to the audience and fails to resolve anything.  It actually makes you feel that an ending is coming, but the only thing after that is darkness and credits. 

P.S.  I'd also like to say that I don't know what a good ending for "Brothers" might have been.  Everything I can think of is either cliche or undeserving of the rest of the film, and maybe that's why it seems to fall apart.


  1. I think I'd like to see this, though I'd rather see the orginal Susanne Bier version first. have you seen that one?

  2. Brødre? It's Danish or Norwegian, right? No, I haven't seen it yet, but I'd like to. I'm very curious to see how closely the two follow each other.