Two Brothers, Measured Against One Another By Fate Before Sam (Tobey Maguire) goes off to war, he and his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) live different lives. When Sam is reported lost in a helicopter crash, though, both men find their character tested — and director Jim Sheridan takes his time tracking the nuances, so that when emotional fireworks finally come, they're honestly explosive.
NPR logo

Two Brothers, Measured Against One Another By Fate

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/121053894/121105943" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Two Brothers, Measured Against One Another By Fate

Review

Movies

Two Brothers, Measured Against One Another By Fate

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/121053894/121105943" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The war in Afghanistan plays a major role in the film �Brothers,� which opens today. Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire play the title characters. One goes to war, the other - well, here's our critic Bob Mondello to fill us in.

BOB MONDELLO: Two brothers separated by everything. Sam, played by Tobey Maguire, is a captain in the Marines, wife and kids solid, stable, headed out for another tour in Afghanistan. His brother Tommy, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, never finishes anything, drinks too much and is just getting out of prison on the day Sam ships out. A few months later, tragedy strikes. Tommy has gone joy riding in Sam's car and returns to find Sam's wife, Grace, looking stricken.

(Soundbite of movie, �Brothers�)

Mr. JAKE GYLLENHAAL (Actor): (As Tommy Cahill) Just say it, you know what I mean, all right? He told me I could borrow the car whenever I want.

Ms. NATALIE PORTMAN (Actor): (As Grace Cahill) Sam's dead.

(Soundbite of sobbing)

Mr. GYLLENHAAL: (As Tommy) What are you talking about?

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Grace) He's dead, Tommy, come here.

Mr. GYLLENHAAL: (As Tommy) Why'd you let him go over there, Grace?

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Grace) Tommy�

MONDELLO: That's just the start of the recrimination. Sam's helicopter went down over water in enemy territory. Everyone is presumed lost and the family is lost, too. With nothing expected of him, Tommy's actually holding up best. Grace can barely drag herself out of bed, though she has to, for the kids.

(Soundbite of movie, �Brothers�)

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Grace) Why don't you take your dress off?

Ms. BAILEE MADISON (Actor): (As Isabelle Cahill) I hate it.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Grace) We're going to put it on, okay? We have to go.

Ms. MADISON: (As Isabelle) I don't want to.

Ms. TAYLOR GEARE: (As Maggie Cahill) I don't want to wear mine either. It's itchy.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Grace) Okay, come here, okay? Okay.

Ms. GEARE: (As Isabelle) Is dad really dead like your mom and dad?

MONDELLO: He's not, as it happens. And I'm not spoiling anything here. From the moment Sam's copter goes down, director Jim Sheridan cuts between the family and events in Afghanistan between scenes of ne'er-do-well Tommy unexpectedly finding purpose as he helps Grace and the kids, and scenes of Sam being captured by the Taliban. Tommy bonding with the family, Sam being tortured, Tommy growing, Sam wasting away. By the time Sam is rescued, he is damaged � so much so that his family can barely recognize him.

(Soundbite of movie, �Brothers�)

Mr. TOBEY MAGUIRE (Actor): (As Captain Sam Cahill) You know what I did to get back to you?

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Grace): No.

Mr. MAGUIRE: (As Captain Sam Cahill) You know what I did? (unintelligible) for you.

(Soundbite of crashing and breaking)

Mr. MAGUIRE: (As Captain Sam Cahill) I (unintelligible) because of you.

MONDELLO: �Brothers� is an American remake of a Danish drama that was quite good actually � very spare, without music or even artificial lighting coming between the audience and the characters. Director Jim Sheridan has given this new version star power � Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal wrenching as the brothers of the title, Natalie Portman caught effectively between them. And he's also given it Hollywood polish while avoiding Hollywood histrionics. In many ways, this Irish director is a perfect fit for the material.

Family has always been central in his work, from �My Left Foot� on. as has politics - and while that's rarer in Hollywood movies, it seems appropriate that this one should note the obvious, that the horrors soldiers experience in wars don't always get left overseas when they come home. Sheridan sticks to the family part of that equation, never leaning on its social ramifications. But with a troop surge announced just three days ago, he doesn't have to. You can't help peering at the barren, rocky landscapes in �Brothers� with widened eyes right now.

I'm Bob Mondello.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.