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The Essential Guide to Newcastle
23 January 2010
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Brothers (12)

The ViewNewcastle Review

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Review byMatthew Turner20/01/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 110 mins

Engaging, watchable drama with a strong performance from Gyllenhaal but Maguire is miscast and the film lacks the emotional impact of the Danish original.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jim Sheridan and based on the 2004 Danish drama by Susanne Bier, Brothers stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Tommy, an ex-con who gets out of jail just as his older brother Sam (Tobey Maguire), a loyal Marine, is getting ready to head back to Afghanistan with his men. When Sam is reported killed in action, Tommy gradually gains a sense of responsibility as he steps up to care for his brother's grieving wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and their two adorable daughters (Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare).

Unbeknownst to his family, however, Sam is still alive and enduring a horrific imprisonment that lasts several months and takes its toll on his sanity. But things get even worse when he finally arrives home and sees the closeness between his brother and his wife.

The Good
Sheridan sticks pretty closely to the plot of the original but he does pull off a terrifically tense dinner table sequence (involving a squeaky balloon) that's not present in the 2004 version and is the highlight of the remake.

Gyllenhaal is excellent throughout, investing Tommy with a humanity and believability that's genuinely engaging, while Sam Shepherd is on reliably stern form as their father and Mare Winningham is quietly impressive as their stepmother. There's also strong support from Portman as Grace, while Geare proves a consummate scene-stealer as youngest daughter Maggie and Carey Mulligan makes a strong impression in a brief cameo as a fellow soldier's widow.

The Bad
That said, although the casting of Maguire and Gyllenhaal as brothers is borderline genius, Maguire is miscast as Sam and fails to sell both the central dramatic incident scene in Afghanistan (compare his over-acted, shouty version with the horror of the original) and the inevitable crack-up scenes back home. The result of this is that Gyllenhaal's character is the only one you're emotionally invested in, which makes the story a little one-sided.

Worth seeing?
Brothers is a watchable, well made drama with a superb performance from Jake Gyllenhaal but it lacks both the subtlety and the emotional impact of the Danish original.

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Brothers (12)
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