In my short time as a military wife I remember clearly the few brief discussions I had with my husband about him deploying overseas. Although I was blessed and fortunate to never have to deal with watching a loved one go to war, I remember the subject always looming in the back of my mind. Even though we have been removed from the military for several years, I found those thoughts and feelings rushing to the foreground as I watched BROTHERS. And even though I never had to deal with it directly, I can empathize and have deep respect for those men and women who are still facing this situation even today.
In BROTHERS we meet Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), his wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and two daughters a few days before he is about to go back to Afghanistan. Before he heads out he goes to pick up his younger brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) from prison where he has been for the past few years. Several days or weeks after being in Afghanistan, Cahill’s helicopter is shot down and he is (unbeknownst to anyone) captured and held as a P.O.W. His wife gets word that he is dead and the first half of the film is her coping with the loss of her husband with the help of Sam’s brother and family. After Cahill is recovered and comes home, the film revolves around his integration back into life and his family after the traumatic experience of being captured.
The highlight of this film was the acting of Tobey Maguire. His performance was incredible from start to finish. His journey through the film: from loving father and husband to haunted and broken war veteran was so believable it was shocking. If he’s not nominated for an Academy Award it would be appalling. The other stand out performance was from the young actress, Bailee Madison, who played his daughter Isabelle. The role required a lot of emotional range from such a young actress and she pulled it off without a hitch. Look for her in future films, she’s a very talented young lady.
The one flaw of the movie would have to be the pacing. The entire time it felt like the audience was being led to a really intense moment where we would be shocked. And although there were moments that were intense, I left feeling let down as the big climax was, well, anti-climactic. The intensity and the sadness of the film never let up and then all of a sudden the film was over. A little more resolution would have been nice although we are left with the knowledge that Cahill was starting to heal from his experiences—that was about as happy an ending as Sheridan was going to give us.
The acting and plot of this film were well done, it was just a little too depressing, disturbing and unresolved for my liking. I think the subject matter is a little touchy and still fresh and raw in America’s mind, so even though it’s a good story, it needed proper resolution to draw in a proper audience.