'Brothers' Satisfies But Doesn't Shine

The two brothers in the title are Sam and Tommy.  Sam (Tobey Maguire), a captain in the Marines, is married to Grace (Natalie Portman).  The couple has two young girls:  Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare).  Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) has just been released from prison after serving time for a bank robbery.  The boys' father, Hank (Sam Shepard), adores Sam and detests Tommy.

When Sam is sent back to Afghanistan for another tour of duty, his helicopter is shot down and he is presumed dead.  In fact, he and Marine private Joe (Patrick Flueger) are actually prisoners of the Afghan insurgents, and the treatment they receive is unspeakable.

Back home, Tommy rises to the occasion of Sam's assumed death.  He straightens out his life, and an intimacy understandably develops between Tommy and Grace.  Sam eventually returns home, and the memories of his captivity dominate the remainder of the movie.  The final denouncement is enthralling and heartbreaking.

Is the film first-rate on any level, e.g., a personal story of a dysfunctional family or the effect of the Afghanistan war on our soldiers?  The answer is no.  The picture is not superb in terms of its storyline or the performances of the principal characters with the exception of the children, particularly the oldest daughter, Isabelle (Bailee Madison).  She superbly conveys the feelings of a bewildered child totally overwhelmed by her father's emotional outbursts and not able to fully understand the relationship between her mother and her Uncle Tommy.

Although Brothers is not a first-rate film, it informs us about the after-effects of war and is worth seeing while we wait for better ones to come along.  I saw it at the AMC Loews Kips Bay Cineplex which has 15 large screens and wonderful stadium seating.

HS said:  "I liked the movie although it was basically sad.  It was novel to see Tobey Maguire in a military outfit rather than his Spider-Man costume.  I enjoyed watching Jake Gyllenhall and Natalie Portman, who are brighter than most actors.  It is unusual today to see a movie in which Americans are not depicted as evil.  The plot had several implausible twists, but there was enough action and drama to keep me absorbed."