By Chase Kahn
Neither squeamishly overwrought or piercingly resonate, Jim Sheridan's Brothers is as respectable in places as it is overtly formulaic. Its small pleasures lie in the painting of a kitchen, a skate in a nearby park or the ocassional authenticities of grief and recovery and how these relationships within the Cahill family shape and coalesce after the incident.
It also shines in Jake Gyllenhaal's performance as Tommy, the alcoholic, on-parole brother to Sam (Tobey Maguire), who unknowingly but forcefully takes over as father and husband to Sam's mourning wife, Grace (Natlie Portman) and her two daughters.
Tommy's (Gyllenhaal's) relationship with his father (Sam Shephard), a former Marine himself who despises Tommy's rugged past and neck tattoos, is an interesting aspect to the film, (especially since it's insinuated that Shephard was hardly a caring father and greatly influenced Sam's (Maguire) decision to join the Marines, being a former Marine himself) but it's never explored fully. In fact, when Sam comes back from the dead, his father is hardly even in the film.
I also didn't like screenwriter David Benioff and director Jim Sheridan's decision to cut back-and-forth between Maguire's Sam Cahill, captured and imprisoned in Afghanistan and the goings-on of Tommy and Grace back home, recovering and recuperating and exploring eachother's vulnerability of grief. It's too herky-jerky, and if you're going to show what's happening 'over there', don't cut it up with such frequency.
As far as this kind of thing goes, which is hardly off-the-rails or revelatory in the way of subject matter, it's well performed, I'll give it that. But, it's such an uninteresting and unmotivated film that it becomes tediously melodramatic. It also seems misleading in its title - this film isn't so much about the relationship between two brothers as it is about one man's paranoid, post-traumatic tirade and trigger-finger emotions. It would be like calling Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull by the name Brothers.