Remakes are all the rage, with every possible source being plundered for re-material in Hollywood. What astounds this reviewer is the sheer amount of bullshit spouted about why they're remaking a particular film. If only half their inventiveness for PR waffle found its way into the scripts, what a year of movies we'd get.

Before this current deluge of redos, one of the most popular baskets to plunder was the ole Americanization of a foreign film. ‘Brothers', a Hollywood remake of the Danish film ‘Brødre', redirected by Jim Sheridan from Dane Susanne Brier's original, falls into this somewhat less insipid category. Forewarning before you rent/buy this DVD: avoid the featurette where it becomes painfully obvious no one who made this film is interested in explaining what it means to them, beyond sound byte clichés about how wonderful the original is, and toss, toss, toss—the press kit banality shines on, even for a film that does in fact dare to be different.

‘Brothers' tells the story of two brothers (apt); one a family loving marine (Tobey Maguire), the other a black sheep ex con (Jake Gyllenhaal). When the marine is sent off to Afghanistan and subsequently is declared KIA, his family must come to grips with his loss and rebuild their lives, in the process redefining their preconceptions of each other. Of course all is not what it seems, the fallen hero (or is he?) is in fact not dead, eventually returns, and that's when things get really complicated.

BrothersThis story is a stupendously difficult one to tell with a hell of a lot of questions asked that no one has a hope in hell of being able to answer. It's got the backdrop of a war (which isn't the most popular of topics cinematically at present) but adeptly manages to be topical and relevant. It has talent coming out of its wazoo, and is classy from the first frame to the last, but what does hit home—more than what's intended at the end—is that they didn't go far enough.

Answers to the questions posed in this film are not the order of the day, nor the intent of the filmmakers, but the consequences of any of the characters actions are, and this film consistently shies away from them to the film's detriment. Maguire's character in particular is a bitter pill to swallow (as intended for the most part) with his erosion from all American boy to traumatized marine with a serious reason to question his place in the world depicted in ineffectual snippets that don't push far enough to justify his actions. This is not to say they aren't implied; they certainly are. But the film's subtleties—a help in the American scenes—do not effectively connect you to this man's torturous transition, and does not afford him the sympathy Sheridan obviously wants you to feel.

The performances are, for the most part, first rate. Again, Tobey Maguire, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for this role, is the one big question mark for this reviewer. His seemingly eternal boyish looks make it hard to believe him as a hardened marine captain. Despite his full immersion into the character (and being a real life father himself) there are moments where it feels like a young man playing grown up.

The film as a whole is to be applauded, at least for its intent. This is not an easy story to depict, to act, or to come out of feeling anything but puzzled or full of questions. It is decidedly uncommercial, in fact—a wondrous thing to say for a remake. But there is no getting around the film's failure to use a theatrical forum, not constrained by the vanilla limitations of a TV movie, to show the ugly effects of ugly causes. Being this is what the story is supposed to about, you can't help but feel they've dropped the ball. It really does feel like a TV movie: a passable drama that could have been so much more.

Component Grades
3 Stars
2 stars
DVD Experience
2.5 stars

DVD Details:

Avoid the featurette until after you've watched the film. It'll put you off the film altogether.

Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Language and Sound: Closed captioned; English: Dolby Digital 5.1English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; making-of featurette; audio commentary; additional featurettes.



  • Feature-length commentary track with director Jim Sheridan.


    • Remade in the U.S.A.: How 'Brodre' Became 'Brothers' (12:45)
    • Jim Sheridan: Film and Family (15:52)

    Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging