Friday, September 23, 2011

#204: Brothers

The backdrop of war gives a wide canvas for filmmakers to put together a story. And the beauty of it is that although war is used as a context, the stories needn't necessarily be about the glory of winning or courage or sacrifice. And in a way, the farther the story moves from the main object of war, the greater the hook for a viewer to absorb the story. Such hooks have allowed some really personal and familial stories to stand out in the midst of this big-budget genre. Brothers, a movie made in 2009 about the life of Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) who leaves for an assignment to Afghanistan, is a similar attempt.

Sam Cahill's family is a sweet home of joy with his loving wife Grace and his two daughters. As a Marine, he has the respect and admiration of his parents and the community at large. Cahill's brother Tommy on the other hand is a small-time crook who has been known to be on the wrong side of the law for his petty crimes and is clearly the dark sheep of the family. Sam's departure to Afghanistan saddens everyone in the house but the big jolt comes when he is reported to be dead. While the Cahills struggle to get used to a life without Sam, Tommy steps in to take more responsibilities around the house. What at first surprises the family, becomes the norm and predictably Tommy and Grace start finding in each other an emotional anchor.

Written by David Benioff, Brothers moves at a steadfast pace and oscillates from the images of war and its cruelties to the more soothing environs of the Cahills without much efforts. The fluid screenplay allows for a couple of surprises that keep you interested in the plot. While Tobey Maguire was far from the best choice for a war- hardened Marine, Jake Gyllenhall and Portman fit the characters and perform creditably. The supporting act by Sam Shepard as the head of the Cahill family is particularly impressive as well. As a movie based on war, Brothers also has an engrossing hook from Sam Cahill's point of view and what really happened to him in Afghanistan. The dramatic peak achieved in that section of the story by Benioff and Sheridan is quite good.

Overall, Brothers is an emotional saga that absorbs you. If it struggles, its partly due to a fairly inept performance by Tobey Maguire who doesnt quite hit the nail and the somewhat predictable story turn towards the end. Brothers easily qualifies for that category known as "one-time watch" but I suspect the makers wanted something more out of it, something that seemed to be conspicuously absent in the movie.

Rating: 6.6/10

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