Jan 162010
Authors: Laura James

“Brothers,” the new flick starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Toby Maguire and Natalie Portman, is a profound look at the effects of war on the men and women who fight them and their families.

The film follows the life of Capt. Sam Cahill (Maguire), a Marine who is presumed dead while on tour in Afghanistan. As the film progresses, we follow the turn of events that happen after Sam’s family has heard of his death back home.

Sam’s brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal), who recently got out of prison, takes it upon himself to take care of Sam’s family. He remodels the family kitchen, befriends his sister-in-law Grace, and develops a relationship with his young nieces Isabelle and Maggie.

Portman’s performance as the grieving widow is truly moving. Grace is tormented by her disbelief in Sam’s death and her blossoming feelings for Tommy as she realizes his intentions to take care of her are completely honorable.

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, Sam is struggling to survive a hostage situation. After a helicopter crash, Sam and a fellow marine are captured and tortured for months. The portrayal of the Afghani insurgents is one that scares and captivates the audience so much that the terror Sam faces is as if you’re right there with him.

As the situation in Afghanistan becomes more horrible, Sam’s resolve starts to slip. There are irreparable consequences to what happens to him and his fellow Marine.

Eventually, Sam’s captors are killed, and he is rescued. But when Sam gets back stateside, his life begins to fall apart as he attempts to reconcile what has happened in Afghanistan and what has happened while his family presumed he was dead.

He becomes insanely jealous and homicidal as he begins to believe that Tommy and Grace had an affair. As the film comes to a close, it’s made clear the to the audience that Sam may never be OK, but that’s to be expected after what he’s been through.

In the end “Brothers” comes across as very close to home, especially in this time when the war is going to escalate in Afghanistan in the coming months. Whether there will be Oscar buzz for these performances is debatable, but totally a possibility.

Movie reviewer Laura James can be reached at

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