Brothers jump from theatrical release (December 9th) to home video (March 23rd) was quick, but so was its stay in theaters. The modest drama was made for $26 million and it only just made that back domestically, so the receipts were obviously not enough to really warrant much trumpeting of its home video release. Despite the so-so reviews (it currently sits at a 60% on RottenTomatoes), the film was recommended by almost everyone just for one thing: the performances. With the three leads in the film not having much of a box office presence of late, the film was easily hyped up with the trumpeting of the actors riveting performances. While that didn’t exactly fill seats in the theaters, the film still was a moderate success with all things concerned and certainly not the worst of the myriad of foreign film remakes that have graced theaters before.
A Marine about to embark on his fourth tour of duty, Sam (Maguire) is a steadfast family man married to his high school sweetheart, the aptly named Grace (Portman), with whom he has two young daughters. Tommy (Gyllenhaal), his charismatic younger brother, is a drifter just out of jail who’s always gotten by on wit and charm. He slides easily into his role as family provocateur on his first night out of prison, which is also Sam’s farewell dinner with their parents, Elsie (Winningham) and Hank Cahill (Shepard). When Sam’s Blackhawk helicopter is shot down in the mountains of Afghanistan, the worst is presumed, leaving an enormous void in the family. Tommy steps in to fill the void with consequences that will shake the foundation of the entire family.
It’s easy to get caught up in the drama that Brothers presents, merely because it’s such a (sadly) well-known story in today’s world. Well at least the part about the Blackhawk helicopter being shot down, I’m not sure how regular this film’s other plot is, but in any case it’s easy to imagine and/or relate to the subject matter in the film. As one would expect from an R-rated drama, there is some seriously heavy material presented in the film, but the way it is all handled is really done with a lot of dignity and respect to the characters that take part in this soap opera that is infused with a heavy dosage of reality.
Brothers is the type of film that is relatively simple in its premise but the execution of it is what stays with you. It’s a deeply moving (and at times depressing) film as it focuses on all the joys and pains of a relationship and the various stages that Portman’s character goes through during the film is nothing short of devastating. I can only imagine the emotional rollercoaster that the film must have taken for the actors in it, as everyone really just brought an absolutely astonishing amount of talent to the film. Portman in particular as she had to be torn in multiple directions between the two brothers, but everyone else was fantastic as well. Gyllenhaal’s stepping up as his brothers replacement, at least when it came to work around the house, was quite a progression of the character who was painted as a reckless individual who just got out of jail.
Then there’s Toby Maguire’s character. There is so much turmoil that his character goes through and is forced to exhibit that you tense up whenever he is on the screen. You know deep down that he is a good man, but he’s so tortured inside that you can’t help but wonder if he’ll just lose his cool and snap (which happens in the film…several times, including a particularly uncomfortable dinner table sequence). Again, it really is the performances that drive this film because truly speaking there isn’t a whole lot else—it’s a very basic story in its premise, but the execution and acting that make it up are what makes the film so worth watching.
Overall Brothers is a nearly two-hour long drama that is rather formulaic in its structure, but nonetheless a very Recommended viewing. Director Jim Sheridan continues his meticulous work with the deconstruction of families and the human tendencies that everyone conflicts with and with a truly remarkable cast he was able to create one of the more memorable dramas I’ve seen in quite some time.
Brothers arrives on Blu-ray via Lionsgate in a standard Elite Amaray case. There are no inserts or fancy exterior slipcover, but the menu system is elegantly done and easy to navigate. Sadly Lionsgate went with a retooled poster for the cover-art, as I found the stark white theatrical one-sheet to be quite a great poster…but I guess it wouldn’t have stood out much on the shelves (plus now the film looks like more of an action film than a drama). Extras are sadly incredibly light, but considering how few waves this film made I’m not terribly surprised.
Video arrives in an AVC encoded transfer and as can be expected from a modern film it looks fantastic. There is a washed out appearance to the majority of the film (especially the overseas sequences with Maguire) as well as a heavy hint of grain at times, but even through these visual effects there is an incredible amount of detail to glean from the image. Plenty of depth as well, as nearly every sequence whether outdoor or indoor just looks absolutely fantastic; black levels are solid throughout and everything about this transfer just looks great on whatever screen you’re seeing it on.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and with it being a drama you can expect it to be very laid back and center channel specific. The track does throw some diversity in there with a solid mixture of surround usage during the action sequences (as well as any sequence with snow in it…the film really liked to spread the crunching snow across the channels) and overall it’s a very pleasant track to listen to. It may seem almost too quiet at times, especially during the tense scenes, but that just helps add to the tension itself.
• Audio commentary by Director Jim Sheridan
• “Remade in the USA: How Brødre Became Brothers” featurette (12:45, 1080p)
• “Jim Sheridan: Film and Family” featurette (15:53, 1080p)
The extras are pretty brief, but worth checking out if you enjoyed the film. The commentary is mostly just Sheridan going on and on about how great the cast and crew were during the production of the film (which is to be expected, can’t exactly bad mouth them) so you may be forced to stifle a few yawns here and there if you listen to the track. Overall it’s a fairly nice collection of extras, but nothing that will warrant more than a single viewing…which in the end makes this a simple Rental.
Brothers is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.