Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Video review: "Brothers"

"Brothers" likely got caught up in audiences' serial aversion to movies about our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Good ("The Hurt Locker") or bad ("Green Zone"), movie goers have consistently avoided these movies in droves.

"Brothers" falls somewhere in the middle in terms of quality, and is less about the question of the rightness or wrongness of American intervention than the dire effects on the flesh-and-blood soldiers sent there -- think "The Best Years of Our Lives."

Tobey Maguire, in a strong performance, plays Capt. Sam Cahill, a Marine shot down in Afghanistan. Everyone, including his wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and two young daughters, think he's dead.

Grace tries to move on with some emotional assistance from Sam's ex-con brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), which crosses into a gray zone of affection. When Sam, who suffered unspeakable treatment at the hands of the jihadists, is rescued and brought home, he has difficulty fitting in -- and resents his brother acting as surrogate to his wife and kids.

Based on a Danish film, "Brothers" was directed by Jim Sheridan from a screenplay by David Benioff. Sheridan has a great touch with actors, but too often the story telegraphs its punches.
As affecting as Maguire is as the good son brought low by tragedy, "Brothers" can't break free of a tendency to wade into melodrama.

Extras are identical for DVD and Blu-ray formats. It's a fairly lean list of features, but they're pretty meaty.

There's a fairly standard making-of doc that runs 13 minutes. Sheridan and Benioff talk openly about remaking the Danish film, concentrating less on the question of an affair than the relationship between the siblings.

A 16-minute featurette looks at Sheridan's history of films that concentrate on familial relationships, which is quite illuminating about his unstructured creative process. "In a certain regard, performance is a lie," he says.

The commentary is a rather straightforward description of shots and what the director was thinking about for each scene. It's not revelatory, but it is engaging.

"Movies now have become eye candy, trips of escapism," Sheridan opines.

Movie: 2.5 stars
Extras: 3 stars

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