Captain Sam Cahill (Maguire) is embarking on his fourth tour of duty, leaving behind his beloved wife (Portman) and two daughters. When Sam’s Blackhawk helicopter is shot down in the mountains of Afghanistan, the worst is presumed, leaving an enormous void in the family. Despite a dark history, Sam’s charismatic younger brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal) steps in to fill the family void.
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)