Maybe a heavy war drama isn’t on top of your entertainment to-do list, but Brothers is a well thought out and well acted drama about the life of a military family. It should be in contention for an Oscar.
Sam (Tobey Maguire) and Grace (Natalie Portman) Cahill are a typical two-child, military family. Sam is called up for active duty in Afghanistan. We see the family structure rise and fall when we get news that Sam is killed in action.
That’s where Sam’s brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal,) fresh off of serving time for robbery, steps in to play surrogate Dad. Although he’s an ex-con, his intentions still seem honorable. There’s an excellent duality between the bad brother, protected in prison and the good brother, who goes off to war.
Later we find that Sam was not killed, but kept prisoner and forced to perform a horrible atrocity in captivity. The ruthless realism from his captors breaks Sam, who is later rescued. He returns home, but clearly is not the same.
Sam returns paranoid, feels no one can relate and his anger and frustration manifest themselves, with his family as the target.
With all we know about soldiers returning shell shocked from the war, this all felt like it could be a scenario playing itself out anywhere in the country. The realism really hit home with me and I was swept into their story.
I did take issue when we first find out that Sam is “killed,” the military was quick to report the death to his family. Seems to me, like this detail should be 100% confirmed. In reality, Sam and another soldier survived their attack. I suppose it’s a plot device to later develop the drama, but the detail stuck out like a sore thumb to me.
Tobey Maguire delivered the standout role. He transformed from a level headed to insane, and back again. I haven’t seen him go completely dark until now. His outward display of the inner angst he’s going through was surprising to see.