In 'Brothers At War,' A Family That Fights Together

Director Jake Rademacher and brother Isaac Rademacher i i

Sibling Soldiers: Director Jake Rademacher (left, with his brother Isaac) followed his soldier brothers through their tours of duty in Iraq. Conor Colwell/Samuel Goldwyn Films hide caption

itoggle caption Conor Colwell/Samuel Goldwyn Films
Director Jake Rademacher and brother Isaac Rademacher

Sibling Soldiers: Director Jake Rademacher (left, with his brother Isaac) followed his soldier brothers through their tours of duty in Iraq.

Conor Colwell/Samuel Goldwyn Films

Brothers at War

  • Director: Jake Rademacher
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

Rated: R for violence

Jake Rademacher i i

Day & Night: Rademacher in Iraq, where he was embedded with his brothers' units. Conor Colwell/Samuel Goldwyn Films hide caption

itoggle caption Conor Colwell/Samuel Goldwyn Films
Jake Rademacher

Day & Night: Rademacher in Iraq, where he was embedded with his brothers' units.

Conor Colwell/Samuel Goldwyn Films

Every family has war stories of one sort or another. The Rademacher clan has been blessed with a war storyteller to recount them.

In Brothers At War, director Jake Rademacher posits the battlefield documentary as family therapy and as brotherly bonding glue.

Jake's the brother who did not go to war as two siblings headed off to Iraq. One of them is the very model of a modern military man, briskly efficient, authoritative, the kind of officer who inspires; the other has gone off to fight not quite knowing what to expect and has been quieted, subdued, altered by the experience. Both brothers tell Jake he can't know what they've seen.

Recognizing the wisdom in that age-old observation, he decides to follow them into the fray with a camera crew. He ends up embedding with them solo for a time — and therein hangs a tale.

Allowed remarkable access, presumably because of the familial connections, Rademacher comes up with compellingly unfamiliar documentary footage: secret reconnaissance missions on the Syrian border, a day spent in a sniper hide-site, interactions between comparatively seasoned American soldiers and the green Iraqi troops they're mentoring. Firefights caught unvarnished and in the moment are harrowing because the cameraman himself is, well, harrowed.

Back on the home front, the director fumbles a bit. There's a fourth brother no one mentions for more than an hour of film time; parents who stand by proud but vaguely mystified by these brash, burly soldiers they've raised; girlfriends and wives who are cut off when their men are in Iraq, and estranged when they're home. And there's all the amateur psychologizing inspired by all of the above.

And through it all, Jake himself remains enigmatic — not unknowable, but emotionally veiled — as he does his best to lift the veil on a tribe dealing with the impact of war.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.