Brothers (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus knew Maguire and Gyllenhaal would end up playing brothers someday
After being informed of her husband, Sam Cahill’s (Tobey Maguire) death fighting the war in Afghanistan, Grace (Natalie Portman) and her two children have try to carry on with their lives with the support of the Cahill family around them.
With Sam, the golden child of the Cahill family gone, wayward brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) has the opportunity to prove himself to his family and soon forms a bond with Grace and the kids. After a fleeting kiss, the two manage to overcome the awkwardness, only to find out Sam is in fact alive and is coming home. Sadly the Sam Cahill that they all loved has been torn about by his experiences in Afghanistan and may not be able to fit back into his old life, especially with the sense that something has happened between his wife and brother.
Brothers isn’t at all original, in fact it’s probably been told a thousand times before one way or another (including pretty badly in Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour and even this latest spin itself is based on the 2004 Danish film Brødre) but despite the tried and tested plot, Brothers still manages to stand out amongst the crowd.
This is in large part down to the three leads. Each are totally believable in their roles, playing the subtleties of their characters well and thanks to director Jim Sheridan's steady hand, nothing ever feels forced or fake. You know why Tommy feels like a bit of an outcast, you know why Grace would gravitate towards him, despite her mixed emotions and more impressively, you know exactly how Sam is feeling due to his traumatic experiences in Afghanistan.
I was actually quite taken aback by the strength of Tobey Maguire’s performance of a man dealing with his trauma. I genuinely felt uneasy being his around his character and honestly the feeling that it could go either way and he could in fact seriously hurt the family around him was pretty powerful stuff towards the end of the movie. Also expertly countering that was the growth in Gyllenhaal’s performance as Tommy, which was very impressive. You warmed to the guy around about the same time Grace did and despite the weirdness to the whole brother getting it on with brother’s wife thing, it never felt sleazy or anything but just innocent circumstance, putting enough in the audience's court to make the ‘doing the right thing’ decision a pretty tough one.
Despite the initial feeling of bleakness that this small, snow covered town seemed to offer, the transfer here was actually quite a delight. Even though there’s a heavy use of grey and browns and grimy greens the image actually presents them in a welcoming way, allowing warm lighting to make everything pop and letting the colours stand out boldly within the frame.
The Afghanistan scenes are a little more defused but still hold up well, with the prison camp scenes looking (stylistically speaking), a little like the exterior prison camp scenes in the first Iron Man (minus the metal suit and the balls of flame of course).
Reds and blues are obviously colours that come off the best and skin tones look glowing and healthy (though that could just be Portman). The detail levels are pretty high considering this is just a standard DVD and grain is pretty minimal in the clean image, so overall Brothers ends up being a pretty fine transfer.
Pretty much from the get go, you know that music is going to play a big part in making this track work so well. The guitar based score sits proudly in the rear speakers and has a strong presence in the movie throughout, adding a lot of melancholy resonance to moments and really guiding us though the family's emotional experiences.
In amongst the fairy typical but well presented drama elements, is the prisoner of war camp thread with Sam. The audio is a fine counter to the gentle family home scenes, offering up heavy sensory attacks to back up Sam’s slow descent into madness and when he comes home he brings these audio elements with him.
The Sam breakdown towards the end was mixed well enough that you feel like you’re watching an actual event. The sound of shouting and smashing of plates (as well as the rest of the kitchen) pound at your senses and really lets the track cut loose, making the uneasy feeling of chaos and anger all the more effective.
Brothers really ended up having a great mix, that didn’t rest on its drama laurels at all and wasn’t afraid to make the audience feel uneasy with jumps in power. It’s obviously not on the same levels as a big ol’ action blockbuster but the subtle use of audio really did the trick.
‘Remade in the USA: How Brødre Became Brothers’ (12:14) talks about how the original Danish Brødre was much loved by all involved in the idea of remaking it. Cast give their thoughts on how taken they were by the characters and how gripping the story was and of course Jim Sheridan discusses how things were changed for the US remake and how his own spin has changed it.
‘Jim Sheridan: Film and Family’ (15:13) focuses more on the director and despite its short fifteen minute runtime, it’s a nice insight into Sheridan’s life and what interests him when it comes to making movies.
Finally, the solo commentary from Jim Sheridan is quite typical of a one man show. It starts strong, packed with details about making the film (though it is heavily tilted toward just describing what’s on the screen) but soon the quiet periods slip in and Sheridan becomes a little more focused on the heavier scenes while filler moments are left alone.
I found Brothers to be a bit of a bit of pleasant surprise. Yes, it had every story element I expected but never once did it feel lazy or worst still messagey. The three lead roles carry us through the story with ease and some of the more harrowing moments really show off these blossoming actors' chops.
All in all, I found Brothers to be a solid slice of drama and the disc presents it well. While I probably wouldn’t rush to see it again anytime soon (mainly due to the bleak nature of the tale) it was certainly a highlight in amongst a lot of other war inspired dramas I’ve seen lately.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 7th June 2010
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Audio Commentary With Director Jim Sheridan, Remade in the USA: How Brødre Became Brothers, Jim Sheridan: Film and Family
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jim Sheridan
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal
Genre: Drama and War
Length: 105 minutes
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