Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Siblings Go to War

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Siblings Go to War

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlotte O' Sullivan

BROTHERS Cert 15, 105 mins BACK in 1906, Russian writer Leonid Andreyev wrote an eerie short story about the fate of Lazarus, a good man miraculously raised from the dead.

Lazarus, we discover, can't enjoy his second life because he's full of "sinister things". The hero of Jim Sheridan's new war drama, Brothers, experiences a similar kind of horror.

Compassionate, dutiful marine Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) goes missing, presumed dead, while on his fourth term in Afghanistan. His wayward brother, Tommy ( Jake Gyllenhaal), fresh out of prison, tries to fill the gap. His efforts impress Sam's wife (Natalie Portman) and two daughters, and even earn the approval of the brothers' uptight, redneck dad (Sam Shepard). Then Sam is rescued and returns home -- which is when the nightmare begins.

Maguire may seem a bit shrimpy to convince as a marine but he is superb as the alienated Sam. With his swollen eyes and too-taut skin, everything about this man feels parched. At the dinner table, trying to understand one of his daughter's off-the-cuff jokes, his facial muscles all but creak with strain. At another family gathering, he sits clenched like a grey fist. The girls find their newly aggressive, newly frail dad repulsive.

I'm not sure how directors ensure a child actor is permanently on the brink of tears but whether the misery came naturally or not, Bailee Madison -- as Sam's eldest daughter Isabelle -- is astonishing. Sheridan pulled off the same trick with the two youngsters in In America. It must be on his CV: "I'm good at making little girls cry."

Gyllenhaal and Portman have less to do -- they're riffing on their own personas, he babyishly sexual, she coolly regal -- but are integral to the atmosphere and their big moment together is wonderfully loose-limbed. …

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