Photo Credit: Warner Brothers
Brothers is one of the most heart-wrenching war movies to hit the big screen since The Deer Hunter transported audiences to the harsh realities of Vietnam. It is also a must-see for anyone who wants to know more about the toll that a tour of duty can take on a loving, tight-knit military family.
From the very first scene, it's clear Brothers isn't going to be an easy film to watch. Sam, a revered Marine played by an Oscar-worthy Tobey Maguire, writes a letter that is to be delivered to his high-school sweetheart wife in the event he doesn't make it back from his assignment in Afghanistan. We then see the elder of Sam's two daughters have a crying fit over her loving father's impending departure, just one in a stream of foreshadows that the film might not have the happiest of endings.
Because much of this is revealed in the trailer for Brothers -- and because the movie itself wastes no time in laying out the plot direction early on -- it's not a plot-spoiler to say that it's not long before the military brass arrives at the door, hats in hand. They're there to deliver bad news to Grace, Natalie Portman's masterfully portrayed, conflicted army wife character. Without even hearing a single word from the uniformed servicemen on her porch, she unleashes raw emotion that is as believable as it is hard to watch without breaking into tears.
What follows is a heartwarming story line of how crisis can strengthen some family bonds while others tragically weaken. Jake Gyllenhaal is stunning as Tommy, Sam's ne'er do well ex-convict brother. Despite Tommy's major character flaws, the audience is easily drawn in by his charming, sympathetic side. He becomes a literal stand-in for Sam while Sam is MIA overseas.
Oscar-worthy acting and compelling, provocative story aside, this is not a film for the faint of heart. The war scenes necessitate some covering of the eyes, and the aftermath of said scenes as at times even more difficult to watch.
It will likely hit too close to home for families who've experienced firsthand the pain of war, and Brothers is bound to spur plenty of conversation (if not all-out arguments) about the post-9/11 wars.
Brothers is for mature audiences only, not because of "adult situations" in the typical sense, but because it takes a truly thick-skinned person to be able to watch the unraveling of a family that has sacrificed so much in the name of serving its country.
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