Brothers is now showing at Vue Cinemas 29 January 2010

Brothers -1 hr 44 mins, 15


Having had no trouble avoiding the promotional material for this film, I still managed to walk into the near-empty cinema screen expecting an empty plot with empty performances.

For the first half-hour, I sat smug, my judgement wavering only slightly in deference to Jake Gyllenhaal’s adept portrayal of a black sheep in wolf’s clothing.

But then I was struck by the unexpected, and unexpectedly began to enjoy Hollywood’s star-bolstered remake of a Danish film.

Sam (a miscast Toby Maguire) is set to be deployed to Afghanistan, much to the upset of his two daughters and wife (a self-confessed cliche that Natalie Portman struggles with).

But first, Sam must pick up his good-for-nothing bank-robbing brother, Tommy (Gyllenhaal), from prison. This done, Sam heads off to war, and his helicopter is promptly shot down.

Tommy wastes no time in removing the presumed-dead man’s shoes and filling them.

In a blindingly obvious twist, Sam isn’t dead; he’s simply being tortured a lot by a homogenous clan of Taliban caricatures.

And just when you think you’ve caught director Jim Sheridan unconvincingly chewing more than he should have bitten off, he bites off a bit more, and that thing happens.

From then on Brothers becomes a string of disjointed, not entirely convincing but gripping, emotionally wrought and commendably brave scenes, tackling: internal turmoil, guilt, doubt, child psychology, domestic violence, trust and brotherly love.

All told, Brothers is a film that unexpectedly fails to deliver on its empty promise.

Thom Jenkins

Brothers is now showing at Vue Cinemas