Friday Night Movies – Brothers

Jim Sheridan knocks one out of the park

It’s hard to imagine, sometimes, that Tobey Maguire can do anything but play Spiderman.  Spidey tends to overshadow things like Wonder Boys or The Ice Storm.  It takes something like Brothers to remind me that Maguire can indeed hold his own with dramatic material that does not involve webs or a miscast Kirstin Dunst.

Totally ignored by Oscar,  Brothers is a story about both the war in Afghanistan and the effects it has on those left at home.  Director Jim Sheridan takes a more conventional approach to storytelling than Katherine Bigelow does in Hurt Locker, but the result is far more emotionally gripping and the situations more haunting.  Maybe edgy and unconventional wins awards, but Brothers is a better film than Hurt Locker (and I liked Hurt Locker). 

An incredible, intense performance by Maguire creates gut wrenching tension – the kind that makes me wince and tear up.  Supported by Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman, the acting here is absolutely outstanding.  Sam Shepard puts in a nice performance as the aging ex-military father and Mare Winningham does a nice job with a small role as his wife.  Aside from Maguire, the performance to watch here is that of young Bailee Madison as Maguire’s daughter.   Just 8 years old at the time the movie was filmed, this child exposes every raw nerve that the adults around her fight so hard to conceal.  She’s one to watch, my friends.

From beginnning to end, Brothers grabbed me.  There’s a pivotal scene near the end that, in most movies, would have had one or two possible outcomes.  I’m telling you, I had no idea where it was going to go.  Sheridan manages to create such uncertainty throughout the film that anything is possible in what could have been a routine finale. 

Brothers is an excellent film, one I strongly recommend.   Jim Sheridan is a master story-teller – I’ve known that since I saw In America years ago – and he does not fail to produce here.  Pick up the DVD and see Spidey do something a little more real.

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