Brothers tells the powerful story of two siblings; thirty-something captain sam cahill (tobey maguire) and younger brother tommy cahill (jake gyllenhaal); who are polar opposites. A marine about to embark on his fourth tour of duty; sam is a steadfast family man married to his high school sweetheart; the aptly named grace (natalie portman); with whom he has two young daughters. Tommy; his charismatic younger brother; is a drifter just out of jail whoas always gotten by on wit and charm. When his black hawk helicopter is shot down in the mountains sam is presumed dead and the cahill family suddenly faces a shocking void. Tommy tries to fill in for his brother by assuming newfound responsibility for himself; grace; and the children. In the grief and strangeness of their new lives; grace and tommy are naturally drawn together. Their longstanding frostiness dissolves; but both are frightened and ashamed of the mutual attraction that has replaced it. But sam is not dead; he and a fellow soldier have been captured by taliban fighters. In afghanistanas harsh; remote pamir mountains; sam is subjected to traumas that threaten to rob him of his very humanity. At the same time that samas sense of self is being destroyed overseas; tommyas self-image is strengthening at home. When sam unexpectedly returns to the states; a nervous mood settles over the family. Sam; uncharacteristically withdrawn and volatile; grows suspicious of his brother and his wife. Their familiar roles now nearly reversed; sam and tommy end up facing the ultimate physical and mental challenge when they confront each other. In the shifting family dynamics; who will dominate? Directed by six-time oscara nominee jim sheridan (in america; in the name of the father); brothers tells the compelling tale of how two brothers come to terms with issues of love; loyalty; and manhoodaand with the woman caught between them.
Screenwriter David Benioff (The 25th Hour
) didn't have to do much to relocate Brothers
from Denmark to America. The story remains the same: Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) loves his family, but he's equally devoted to his career. Just as his ne'er-do-well brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), exits prison, where he did time for robbery, the Marines deploy Sam to Afghanistan. Tommy starts looking in on his wary sister-in-law, Grace (Natalie Portman), but then Sam's helicopter crashes in the mountains, and the military informs Grace that her husband has died. Unbeknownst to the Cahill clan, the Taliban has taken Sam hostage and tortures him to elicit information. Sam resists, but his colleague caves, leading to an unthinkable act. Back in New Mexico, Grace and Tommy grow closer, stopping just short of a full-blown affair (in Susanne Bier's original, they take the plunge). Even Tommy's disapproving Vietnam vet father, Hank (Sam Shepard), sees his son in a new light after Tommy renovates Grace's kitchen. But when Sam is rescued by his company, he returns a broken man and is convinced that his wife has fallen in love with his brother. Even his daughters are afraid of him (Bailee Madison impresses as the eldest). As in Bier's film, Jim Sheridan (In America
) elevates redemption and forgiveness over tragedy and loss, and his well-meaning remake gets off to a solid start, but it loses steam by the end. Brothers
offers a compelling scenario, but the telling is too overstated to capture the full heartbreak of the situation. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Stills from Brothers (Click for larger image)