Last weekend, I saw 'Brothers', a recent release, directed by Jim Sheridan, which I had been meaning to see for a while. Having seen the trailor, I thought it deserved a watch, and while there was plenty of good in the film, most of it was captured in the brief preview.
The film tells the story of Sam (Tobey Maguire), the golden-haired son of marine father (Sam Shpherd), and how the tables turn to reveal the wayward son, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhall) as the hero, and Sam as the fated antihero. Sam, a soldier in the Afghan war, gets captured by the Taliban, leaving his wife, Grace (Natalie Portman), and two daughters to grieve his loss. The mourning family lean toward Tommy, who pulls himself together, providing immense support, and assuming role of father. Then Sam returns.
That all this is pretty obvious from the beginning of the movie is pretty inevitable, given such an obvious, worn-out plot. However, it does not excuse it from a tired, uninspiring production, where none of the main characters do justice to their roles, with a possible exception of Tommy, who plays the lovable uncle, resentful son and loyal but jealous brother convincingly. There was a very funny scene where he was sitting drunk at a bar, waiting for Grace to pick him up and pick up his tab also, and he was playfully mocking the barman's nose, revealing him as harmless and childlike, but also as a 'waster'.
In fact, the most memorable character for me, one who played the part with absolute sincerity was Isabelle, the older daughter, played by the very talented Bailee Madison. She captured the subtle dynamics of family relations beautifully while her own emotions were perfectly portrayed.
As for Maguire, he just looked so young! And I know this in itself isn't a fair criticism, but I couldn't take his character seriously, even though some scenes were quite good (the family dinner-table, where he couldn't see the humour in his daughter's joke), a subtle evocation of his post-war intensity. However, by contrast, he completely overplayed his psychotic episode where he tore down the kitchen, erected by Tommy, shouting the house down, quite literally.
I think this movie needed more work. It seemed mechanical, as if the director only thought some of the scenes through, and didn't deliver it's anti-war message as clearly as it ought to have