Jim Sheridan (“In America,” “My Left Foot”) directs a slight though serious-minded remake of the 2004 Danish film “Brødre” originally directed by Susanne Bier. Sheridan and David Benioff co-write an Americanized adaptation of the script Bier co-wrote with Anders Thomas Jensen. One brother is released from prison, as the other ships out to Afghanistan. The latter is ruled dead when his copter is shot down; the former steps into the vacated role of father to his nieces and friend to his sister-in-law. The Taliban captured the brother who, it turns out, survived the crash with one of his men. Rescued months later, he returns with trauma that undermines his roles as father and husband. “Did you fuck her?” Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) asks his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) as they watch Sam’s wife Grace (Natalie Portman) ice skate with his little girls (Bailee Madison and Taylor Grace Geare.) “The storyline of ‘Brothers’ seems Greek to me, in the classic sense,” comments Sam Shepard, who plays the boys’ father as a hardened Vietnam vet. That is the potentially tragic quandary confronting these characters. Bier also directed “Things We Lost in the Fire,” where there’s a similiar plot connecting one woman to two men, who are as close as brothers. “Brothers,” though, cannot make emotional sense of the conflicting loyalties, as one brother heals after his incarceration, and the other does time as a prisoner of war with his humanity dismembered. Shooting in the snowy heights of New Mexico–a stand-in for Minnesota and Taliban country alike–Sheridan shapes minor performances by a trio of skilled young actors and makes frequent wrongheaded choices in scoring and editing for one of the weakest of the Iraq war films yet. With Mare Winningham, Patrick Flueger, Clifton Collins Jr., Carey Mulligan and Omid Abtahi. 110m. (Bill Stamets)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.