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Arts and Entertainment

‘Brothers’ Reveals the Aftershocks of Combat

Brothers, directed by Jim Sheridan, chronicles the story of Marine Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) and his troublemaking ex-convict brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal). About to embark on another call of duty to Afghanistan, Sam leaves his family behind after his brother is put on parole.
In Brothers, Tobey Maguire, who plays Sam, finally grows out of the usual Spiderman character that we have come to know him by. Because Sam’s helicopter is shot down in the Middle East, he is presumed to be dead. His widow Grace (Natalie Portman) is devastated and forced to move on without her husband. After Sam’s death, his underachieving brother, Tommy, matures overnight and is always there to give a helping hand to Grace whenever she needs it. Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Tommy, the reformed convict, is excellent, and it is a refreshing change from his other performances.

As Tommy and Grace grow closer, we find out that Sam is in fact alive and has been kept a prisoner of war and has been rescued after enduring two months of atrocities. Sam’s return marks the turning point of the film and his transformation from a caring father to a depressed soldier is what gives the plot meaning.

Brothers tries to convey the stories of numerous marines who were captured in the Middle East and what they were forced to do in order to survive. Armed with the hope of meeting his family again, Sam never breaks, but the Taliban tortures him brutally, ultimately coercing him to perform horrendous acts to survive. A combination of PTSD, guilt, and a lack of medical treatment lead him to clash with his family members and evoke feelings of suspicion and paranoia. Sheridan paints a picture of war with survivors who are emotionally scarred for life due to the horrific circumstances they have faced.

The film excels in its depiction of the lack of available treatment given to soldiers who return home and the difficulties they face when they live with families that don’t understand the pain and suffering they have gone through. However, the ending is much too abrupt and leaves many questions unanswered.

Although Sheridan’s newest film is a parallel to the real world, it lacks in entertainment value and loses its flair halfway through as it takes a predictable turn. But Maguire redeems the movie with his versatile acting, Hi ability to play a compassionate father and a distressed POW in the same movie is noteworthy. Though this movie lacks the action you’d expect from a war film and might not appeal to the typical definition of drama, its message is certainly one you won’t want to miss.

Rating: B

Written by Amit Patankar
Jan 12, 2010 at 10:08 PM

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