2009 Running time: 105 Certificate: 15 Rating: 4

Synopsis

When Marine Tobey Maguire is presumed dead in Afghanistan, jailbird brother Jake Gyllenhaal becomes a rock for his sibling's wife Natalie Portman. Rescued from the Taliban, the traumatised soldier's homecoming threatens to tear the family apart when he accuses his brother of moving in on his wife. Powerful performances all round in this surprisingly warm yet profoundly moving drama from the director of In the Name of the Father.

Director

  • Jim Sheridan

Cast

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

  • Tobey Maguire

  • Natalie Portman

  • Sam Shepherd

Review

Based on the 2004 Danish film Brødre, Sheridan's star-studded take may be a little uneven but packs a hefty emotional wallop nonetheless.

Captured by Taliban fighters after his helicopter is shot down in Afghanistan, Marine Sam Cahill (Maguire) is declared dead by the military. Devastated, his wife Grace (Portman) struggles to bring up their two daughters while Sam's wayward brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal) becomes a regular fixture at the family home.

As Grace and Tommy grow closer, Sam endures hellish torment at the hands of his captors, before eventually being liberated and flown home. Forever changed by his experiences, Sam struggles to adjust to his old way of life, his trauma leading to a climactic confrontation with his brother.

While the melodramatic storyline had the potential to be manipulative and mawkish, the director largely avoids such clunkiness, especially in the scenes focusing on life back in the US.

The developing relationship between Gyllenhaal and Portman is convincing and handled with great sensitivity, while the performances from the child actors, especially elder daughter Bailee Madison, are exemplary, bringing charm, humour and warmth to what could have been an unbearably grim drama.

Maguire gives his all as the Marine facing unimaginable horrors and yet doesn't quite have the presence or physicality to drive his performance home with the power it requires.

Nevertheless, the fine interplay between the three leads builds to a gripping, emotionally devastating finale that offers no easy answers while still arriving at a poignant and satisfying conclusion.

Chris Prince

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