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DVD Review: "Brothers" brings to life the cost of war back at home

Brothers stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, and Natalie Portman.
Brothers stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, and Natalie Portman.

Sometimes people do not watch things because they are too hard for the heart to bear, because they remind us of circumstances we would rather not remember. At times that is the necessary thing to do; after all the human heart is not made of steel. But sometimes we should watch things precisely because they are difficult to remind ourselves of the sacrifice of others.

Brothers is a story of Sam and Tommy Cahill. Recently released from prison, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to regain footing in his normal life while the constant admonishment of his father Hank (Sam Shepard) always places him in comparison to his brother Captain Sam Cahill. Sam (Tobey Maguire) is off for his fourth tour of duty, leaving behind his wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and his two daughters. Believing that Sam is dead after a helicopter crash, the Cahill family tries to carry on as best they can. Grace and Tommy continue to grind heads afterwards but eventually they fall into a rhythm. Sam makes his way back to his family and while trying to readjust to life, becomes convinced that Tommy and Grace fell in love while he was presumed dead.

Tobey Maguire branched out remarkably well in this film, when in comparison to recent works. Rather than staying confined to action film genre, he went back to his roots as his performance is reminiscent of his work in The Cider House Rules. He can do more than Spiderman and he can do it well. Maguire has a number of projects in the work, including a biographical film about chess master Bobby Fischer (Pawn Sacrifice) and another about Jack Greenberg, the only white lawyer of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund who worked with Thurgood Marshall to outlaw segregation (The Crusaders).

The strength of heart commanded by Natalie Portman as Grace is pure dignity and elegance on screen. Her character carries on although it is plan to see that there is deep sadness in her eyes. Portman definitely has the most profound staying power of most of the actresses of her generation. Portman is scheduled to play Elizabeth Bennett in an adaption of Seth Grahame-Smith’s cult novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Her more serious work includes a recently completed film called Black Swan, a thriller about two rival ballerinas. Darren Aronofsky, writer and director of The Fountain and director of The Wrestler, wrote the screenplay for and directed Black Swan. He also wrote Requiem for a Dream, another phenomenal piece of independent work.

Jake Gyllenhaal gives a strong and underrated performance when compared to Maguire. It is easy to be overshadowed next to Maguire’s give-all performance but nonetheless, Gyllenhaal delivered well. Gyllenhaal can be seen in this summer’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, only recently released in mainstream theatres.

A smaller yet incredibly important role is that of Patrick Flueger as Private Joe Willis, the other survivor from the helicopter crash. The film would not have had the same impact as it did without Flueger’s performance. Other notable performances include Navid Negahban’s (The Stoning of Soraya M.) role as a Taliban soldier named Murad and the two child actresses playing Isabel and Maggie Cahill.

Jim Sheridan has directed such phenomenal films like My Left Foot, The Boxer, and In the Name of the Father. He has been nominated for six Oscars for his screenplay writing, directing, and producing. The same techniques that Sheridan has used to make unpretentious storylines beautiful works of art continued here. The setting was simple and unadorned-the story was left to unfold as it should. The shots were focused and tight on faces, leaving dialogue the center of the story. He plays off of the chemistry on screen. David Beinoff’s screenplay is an exceptional piece of work for its brilliant demonstration of shifting family dynamics.



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