"You want to know what I did to get back to you?!"When I first saw the film Born on the Fourth of July, I thought two things: Tom Cruise should have won the Oscar, and 2) when soldiers return home from war, just how much of them is still in combat? Director Jim Sheridan explores the latter in his new movie Brothers.
Starring Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal, Brothers follows a young marine captain Sam McNeil (Maguire) and his family as he heads back to Afghanistan to serve in the war where his plane is shot down while on duty causing his team to assume he's dead after he doesn't return to base. What they didn't realize is that he was captured by the enemy, tortured and nearly starved to death for almost two months all the while his family at home thought he was dead and gone.
As his wife Grace (Portman) and two daughters grieve for him at home, they are comforted by Sam's brother Tommy (Gylenhaal), who's fresh out of jail and the black sheep of his family, but who also later develops a soft spot for Grace. When they find out that Sam is alive and coming home, they are shocked to learn how dramatically Sam has changed (he's lost several pounds and is harboring a horrific secret about what happened to him while at war) and just how much Tommy's assuring presence had affected their family.
Meanwhile Tommy is struggling to assimilate back into his own life at home, and realizes his family notices his incapability to do so, which in turn drives him to assume that his wife and brother have been sleeping together and that his family has turned on him. For the first time, he felt he was the reject brother, the one who didn't belong. This drives him further over the edge; he realizes that war to him had become his home, and what he was comfortable with.
Maguire gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a shell-shocked war hero (or victim?), even shedding 25 pounds for the role. He's heartbreaking, shocking, and he scary at times and truly captures the elements of war. Portman and Gylenhaal are perfect as the young man and woman trapped in their own grief and struggle to understand what happened to Sam. Brothers subtly yet brilliantly captures one soldier's fight to end the war in his mind months after leaving the battlefield.
Brothers is in theaters now.
My rating: A