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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JIM Sheridan’s remake of 2004 Danish movie Brothers is a gripping family drama that’s been updated and set against the backdrop of the Iraq war.

It rates as a major return to form from the director of past hits In The Name of The Father and In America, after the wayward transgression that was his 50 Cent hip-hop crime thriller Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.

As its title suggests, the film focuses on brothers Sam (Tobey Maguire) and Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) Cahill, as well as Sam’s wife Grace (Natalie Portman).

The former, Sam, is a solid husband and father of two children with a proud military career that’s ongoing. The latter, Tommy, is a wayward petty criminal who continually struggles to meet the expectations placed upon him by the pair’s bullish, ex-military father (Sam Shepard).

When Sam goes missing, presumed killed in action, during his latest tour, Tommy tries to keep his brother’s family from falling apart while coming to terms with his own grief and guilt.

But when Sam unexpectedly returns a changed and haunted individual, the family dynamic is further tested as he tries to come to terms with the cost of survival and his suspicions about Tommy and Grace’s relationship.

Just as he did with In America, Sheridan has created a deeply believable family story that tugs at the heart-strings throughout its highs and lows.

His child actors, in particular, are amazing as the full impact of the emotional fallout is recounted in their young faces… but likewise the performances of his main actors are damn-near flawless too.

And while some critics have remarked that Susanne Bier’s original was more subtle, Sheridan’s make-over is no less affecting in my opinion and just as rewarding.

Gyllenhaal and Maguire are believable siblings and share a close, if increasingly volatile, bond, while Portman exudes grief and confusion in what must rate as her most mature performance to date.

Shepard also lends strong support as the disciplinarian but alcoholic father who is forced to handle his own demons after Sam goes missing and Tommy is forced to step up.

Sheridan doesn’t sugar-coat the sentiment, either, allowing events to unfold in often unflinching fashion, and he maintains a nice underlying tension and threat of violence that’s born out of Sam’s horrific ordeal in Iraq.

The end result is a richly absorbing, deeply moving and brilliantly acted piece of work that deserves to find a wide audience.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 105mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 7, 2010