Director Jim Sheridan has a wide variety of films under belt from My Left Foot, to In America, to Get Rich Or Die Tryin', 50 Cents semi-autobiography. I like this about a director. It shows that he has a versatile mind and that he's open to making any type of film which is what I think a lot of directors are lacking these days. You can't always put in a Jim Sheridan film and be able to tell it's a Jim Sheridan film as you would be able to with a say Wes Anderson type of director, and that's not a bad thing at all.
Sheridan's latest effort, Brothers, is a character driven drama that rings true to real life situations that one might face while being placed in the situation these characters are placed it. The story centers around Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), his wife Grace Cahill (Natalie Portman), and his brother Tommy Cahill (Jake Gyllenhaal. Sam and Grace are a young couple who have been in love since they were 16 years old. They have two young daughters and they're happy. Once Sam gets sent back to Afghanistan things take a change for the absolute worst. It's every soldiers wives nightmare and worst possible situation to be in when two officers show up at your door and you just know what news they have for you. After Grace gets the news that Sam is dead Sam's ex-con brother Tommy starts hanging around her house more and more, helping out with the kids, and helping out remodeling the kitchen for her. After spending more time with him Grace realizes that the has been criminal she once hated is actually becoming a great guy both to her and her kids, and her kids simply adore him. Just when things appear to be turning around and the possibility of starting a new life with Tommy is growing more and more realistic things take yet another turn, this time is is for better or worse. These are some questions that are raised after we learn that after months and months of torture and being held in captivity she gets a call saying that Sam is still alive, and coming home.
The film cuts back and forth between showing Sam as a prisoner and Tommy and Graces life thinking that Sam is dead. The scenes with Sam in Afghanistan are real and intense and really gives the audience a true sense of fear. The scenes at home are also realistic and show just how are you supposed to handle a situation like this? Tommy is clearly just trying to be a nice guy with helping Grace and the kids out, he's not trying to sleep with her or anything. But as time progresses situations like that do come around and the film has an interesting approach to dealing with them that I like. It takes it very slow. Because it's hard for the both of them to deal with the situation. Which is real. When Sam returns home he see's that things aren't the same and realizes that neither is he. He's severely messed up in the head and what comes is intense and scary to say the least.
Tobey Maguire offers hands down the best performance of his career and may be a sleeper for a best actor nomination for the Oscars or Globes. He went through a great physical change with losing 30 pounds for the roll and although it's not nearly as crazy as what Christian Bale did for The Machinist or Rescue Dawn, it's still a great accomplishment and makes him look creepy as hell. Natalie Portman is also very good and plays the role of a grieving widow to absolute perfection. I swear that woman can not just cry on command but she knows how much to cry and how to look while crying given the different situations she's in. Going into this I wasn't expecting much form him at all, but it was actually Jake Gyllenhaal that turned out to be my favorite part of Brothers. He did the opposite of Maguire and bulked up for the role, turned scruffy, and sports a tattoo on his neck. He does a great job at playing a quiet, kind of weird guy who you can just tell has had a background in crime and has a difficult time adjusting to life outside of prison. He wasn't really given enough material to work with to deserve a nomination, but he did the best he could've possibly done in my opinion. I wasn't a fan of the films score at all. It was a kind of strange up beat country theme that I thought was a bit out of place. It's a fairly small and quiet film , that is until Sam comes home, and it's good, not great by any means. But it was an interesting and entertaining film, and the performances were what really made this film enjoyable for me. Brothers gets a solid 3 and 1/2 outa 5.