Brothers (2009) Director: Jim Sheridan

Brothers is a powerful and gritty drama about the horrors and aftermath of war, but it's also a film about the banality of everyday life; the scenes set 'at home' with Grace (Natalie Portman) waiting for her marine husband Sam (Tobey Maguire) to come home from Afghanistan drag and are mundane in comparison to the 'action', albeit horrific and tense, of Sam's experiences. When Sam's helicopter is shot down, he is missing, presumed dead, and we go through the grieving process with Grace and Sam's family, including ex-con brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal). This is raw and emotional stuff, especially when we find out that Sam is still alive and being held captive by extremists - along with a fellow marine. As Grace slowly moves forwards and becomes closer to Tommy in a safe and warm home environment, Sam is being tortured and is forced to commit a horrific act. The juxtaposition of the slow scenes of home life against the atrocities in Afghanistan work well, and help to place the sense of time moving on with both Grace and Sam's situations.

Essentially this is what Brothers is saying - 'everyday' life can be slow, and it can be boring, but it's comforting and what we 'know'. Act 3 focuses on Sam's rescue and his return home, where he's a very changed and traumatised man and recognises the attraction between his wife and his brother. Although in therapy and failing to connect with his family, Sam is keen to return to Afghanistan as it's what he 'knows' too. Brothers is a complex tangle and may not have worked without the excellent performances of the three leads - Portman, Maguire and Gyllenhaal. Portman is believable as a grieving young marine wife and mother, whilst Maguire really holds it all together with his standout turn as seemingly indestructible Sam, who comes back a broken man. When his breakdown finally comes, it's hard to watch but keeps you gripped. The concluding scenes don't pay-off, but don't let that put you off seeking out this touching and strong drama.
3/5 combat boots