Brothers DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

Brothers is such a powerful and amazing film that it really saddens me that it was also the most underrated film of 2009 as well. For my money, it's even a better film than the war movie that won Best Picture as well.
  • OVERALL
    5.0
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
Practically everything
THE BAD
Some more special features would be nice, but there isn't much bad here at all.
THE FEATURE
When I saw Brothers in the theater back in December, I still hadn't seen The Hurt Locker yet, despite everybody and their mom raving about the film. After watching Brothers, I was stunned not only by how truly powerful the film is, but also that, months late, it was dissed hardcore by Oscar voters who were too busy putting Kathryn Bigelow's film on its far-too-high pedestal to recognize Jim Sheridan's fantastic war film... that I believe is a lot better than the film that ended up winning Best Picture.

I can feel the hatred spewing forth my way already from Hurt Locker fans. Let me be clear: I did NOT hate The Hurt Locker at all. I thought it was a fine film that redefines tension for modern moviemaking, but the ending was just so unbelievably flat I was a little amazed that this film, which was released way back in June and only made $15 million at the theaters, was able to hold its momentum all the way up to awards season. After watching Brothers again for the first time since the first time I saw it, the film still holds up and I'm still rather shocked it didn't get the acclaim it deserved.

The film centers on Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), a devoted U.S. Marine with a lovely wife (Natalie Portman) and two adorable daughters (Taylor Geare and the remarkable Bailee Madison) that he has to say goodbye to once again as he prepares to be deployed back to Afghanistan. While Sam is getting ready to leave, his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) is re-entering society again after a stint in prison for, what seems to be, a bank robbery that went awry. Basically, Sam is the model son and Tommy is the screw-up, both facts that their father Hank (Sam Shepard) never fails to remind Tommy of. The family is shattered, though, when Sam's helicopter was shot down and while we see the Cahill's suffering, thinking that Sam is dead, we find out that he was actually captured by the Iraqi's and held with a fellow platoon-mate, Joe Willis (Patrick Fleuger). As we watch Sam and Joe trying to survive in captivity, we see a whole new side of Tommy emerge back in the States as he steps up to help out Grace and wins the adoration of Sam's children, Isabelle and Maggie. However, when Sam is discovered and brought back home, the tranquility that Tommy was able to bring to the family is in danger of shattering completely.

All of the performances here are quite wonderful under the direction of Jim Sherdian, who has proven time and time again that he can bring out the absolute best qualities in anyone who works with him. Tobey Maguire delivers easily the best performance of his career, BY FAR here. While we enjoyed his dopey antics in the Spider-Man films (well, the first two, anyway...) one can easily forget that Maguire is quite a talented actor and this riveting, deep performance that Maguire gives us almost makes me glad that he's no longer Spidey anymore and hopefully he can continue to deliver in-depth performances like he did in this film. Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal also both deliver some of the best performances of their careers as well, with Portman spot-on as Sam's dutiful wife Grace and Gyllenhaal in a terrific turn as Sam's brother Tommy. Scenes with both Maguire and Gyllenhaal are quite wonderful to see as they bounce off each other nicely and their character both have some very intriguing character arcs. While Sam Shepard was fine as the crotchety father Hank and Carey Mulligan and Clifton Collins Jr. both do a fine job as the widow of Joe Willis and as Sam's commanding officer, it's kind of sad that we really don't see them that much in the film. It really wouldn't make sense to have them be a bigger part of the film, but it surely would've been nice to see more of these talented actors as well. Honestly though, with all these big names attached to the film, one of the most amazing performances in the film comes from young Bailee Madison, who delivers a tremendous and heartbreaking performance as the Cahill's older daughter, Isabelle or Izzy. At only 10 years old, she has the gravitas and screen presence of an actress who has been doing this for decades and this smashing performance should (hopefully) open a lot of doors and I can't wait to see what she does next.

Screenwriter David Beniof, who has made the transition from novelist to screenwriter better than anyone else has before, crafts a truly elegant script and gives us a thoroughly rich story with characters we genuinely care about and intricate plot twists that always keeps you guessing. What's also great about this is the way he structures it, with the audience really knowing the whole story all along while characters like Tommy and Grace have to find out the whole story the hard way, through a very conflicted/troubled Sam. Director Jim Sheridan paints a tremendous picture here, proving once again how he is one of the best directors out there who can bring out things in actors that many others couldn't . This really is an immersive tale that brings you into the American military family in unique and compelling ways we haven't seen before.

Brothers is hands-down one of my absolute favorites of 2009, and I'm quite sad that it seems I'm one of the only other critics who feel that way. If you were blown away (pun intended) by The Hurt Locker, get ready to get to the true heart of the conflicted American military family with Brothers.
THE EXTRAS
Sadly we don't' get a whole lot on this disc. We start off with Remade in the USA: How Brodre Became Brothers, a featurette which focuses on how the Danish-language film Brodre was turned into this American version, Brothers. It's nice to see how much they respected the original film by Susanne Bier and how they all came to make this remake. We hear from all the main players here, including director Jim Sheridan, stars Tobey Maguire, Jake Gylennhaal, Natalie Portman, screenwriter David Beniof and even the original director Susanne Bier and it was very cool to see how they took from the original film and made Brothers their own. It's a very nice 12-minute featurette that really does a great job of showing how much this film differs from the original.

The only other thing we get here is Jim Sheridan: Film and Family, which talks about director Jim Sheridan's ongoing theme of making films about families and his unique way about going about these films. We hear some interesting stuff from Gyllenhaal about what Sheridan said to him at times, with certain material in the film that would make him angry and would remind Sheridan of his own brother, telling Gylennhaal not to approach him that day. We hear from all the major players once again, hearing how Sheridan tells his tale in this film and their own reactions to this story. What's nice about this featurette and the last is there is really no glad-handing here. We don't hear this kind of fake "I loved working with... etc." and it really feels like these actors and producers are really genuine in what they're saying about Sheridan and the film itself. We also get a lot of intriguing details on Sheridan's directorial process and, while this, for some reason, does seem more longwinded than the first featurette, you really get a fantastic amount of insight into director Jim Sheridan's methods and this 16-minute featurette is a fantastic way to finish out these features.
THE VIDEO
The film is presented in the widescreen format, in the ultra-wide 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This aspect ratio really opens the film up and it's presented wonderfully.
THE AUDIO
The sound is handled through either the Dolby Digital 5.1 format or the Dolby digital 2.0 format.
THE PACKAGE
It's nice to see this trend developing with the slipcover because it's finally becoming useful for once. While the front cover is the same on both the slipcover and the regular packaging, with a nice shot of Maguire, Portman and Gyllenhaal up top, a title card in the middle and another image of Maguire at the bottom with a few critic quotes as well. The back of the slipcover has the shot of all three that was used on the one-sheet, with a few more critic quotes thrown in there and the special features listing and a few random images. The back of the packaging is roughly the same but they condense it a bit more to fit in a solid synopsis as well. It's just nice to see that they're actually using the slipcover for something else, instead of just making it this cardboard carbon copy of the artwork right beneath it. I always throw the slipcovers away if they're exactly the same as the packaging, but I've been finding myself keeping more and more slipcovers because of new designs like this. Keep it up!
THE FINAL WORD
Brothers is such a powerful and amazing film that it really saddens me that it was also the most underrated film of 2009 as well. For my money, it's even a better film than the war movie that won Best Picture as well.

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Comments (1)

  1. Paolo Sardinas

    While I enjoyed "Hurt Locker" for what it was I do have to admit that this film definitely deserved a bit more attention. Maybe it'll become one of those "Hidden Gems" in the future but nonetheless this was definitely under-appreciated.

    4 years agoby @sardinasFlag