Another day, another possibly pointless adaptation of a foreign language film; why Hollywood insists on remaking foreign language films is something I will never come to understand. Is it so hard to read subtitles?
In this case Brothers, adapted from Danish film Brodre (2004) starring Connie Nielson, isn’t a bad film. It doesn’t really add anything new to the storyline or the tone of the film but it hasn’t lost anything either. Brothers tells the story of two brothers: one a Captain, stationed in Afghanistan with a loving wife (Portman) and two daughters, the other, newly released from prison for armed robbery (Gyllenhaal). When Captain Sam Cahill (Maguire) returns to Afghanistan his helicopter is shot down and he is presumed dead leaving his family to mourn him. He is not dead and has been captured by a group of insurgents along with a fellow officer. With Sam gone, Tommy (Gyllenhaal) attempts to redeem himself to his family and fill the gaping hole left by Sam.
Sam’s happy return is ruined by suspicions of his wife’s infidelity with his brother and a fragile psyche after his experience being imprisoned.
The film charts the family’s grief and the effects of war on not only those who serve but the family around them. This is where the film shines, with strong performances from the leads; the audience feels the grief and uncertainty.
Maguire steals the show as the marine unable to adapt to life at home again after serving, never feeling he belongs with his family and always wanting to be with his other, army family. His performance is powerful and never slips into overacting. Maguire has always been an actor with a wide range and has finally been given the chance to get out of the spidey suit and act. Portman gives a subtle performance as a woman who has lost the love of her life but is trying to be strong for her children. The moment when she gets the news of Sam’s death is heartbreaking but Sheridan (director) doesn’t allow Portman to overact leaving her quietly suffering.
Gyllenhaal proves himself again as one of the best actors of his generation, as the black sheep of the family, who has lost his brother and the only one who has ever believed in him. Sam Shepherd gives his usual best in a role that doesn’t require too much of him and the two girls (Bailee Madison and Taylor Grace Geare) prove that not all child actors are annoying. Madison is a sensitive young actress reminiscent of Hayley Joel Osment in Sixth Sense who shows a natural maturity to some confusing circumstances.
Sheridan, an accomplished director, who also directed My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father is no stranger to working with powerhouse performances, his style is simple allowing the performances to speak for themselves, creating sympathy for the flawed characters.
With strong performances from the leads and some bittersweet storytelling from Sheridan this is not a crime against filmmaking, but a retelling of a story to a wider audience.