Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen’s 2004 Danish drama Brothers (Brødre) is given a prestige Hollywood makeover courtesy of writer David Troy Benioff and director Jim In America Sheridan. The result in an engrossing, if flawed drama about the emotional devastation reeked by modern warfare.
Tobey Maguire casts off his Spiderman costume to play Sam Cahill, a quarterback turned Marine captain who leaves wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and their children to fight in Afghanistan. When Sam is erroneously reported missing, his irresponsible brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) steps up to the plate to help Grace run her family home, leading to a full-on confrontation when the battle-scarred soldier finally returns.
If Brothers never achieves visceral thrust of the original, it’s still a strongly performed chamber piece very much in keeping with Sheridan’s best work (My Left Foot, In The Name of the Father). Tracing the same narrative line as the Danish film, Benioff and Sheridan seem less sensitive to the feelings of Grace (played by Connie Nielsen in the original) and more interested in the eruptive sibling rivalry. As a result, Portman is mere catalytic window dressing to Gyllenhaal’s slovenly Tommy (channeled through Colin Farrell), while Maguire as Sam is a revelation. The hell of war, death and slaughter shadows his every movement.
General release from Fri 22 Jan.