Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I was not terribly excited about seeing Brothers today. My wife and I were in Jacksonville visiting our daughter and son-in-law, and we decided to go see a movie. This was the only one that halfway appealed to us. I'd read several ho-hum reviews of the film, so I was expecting to be disappointed.

Not only was I not disappointed; Brothers is an excellent movie. We were all caught up in this well-acted, tense, moving drama. It's rated R for language and violence. I did not feel there was anything inappropriate here considering the setting and story.

Brothers stars Tobey Maguire as Marine captain Sam Cahill, called into duty in Afghanistan; Natalie Portman is his wife Grace; and Jake Gyllenhaal is Sam's brother Tommy. Sam and Grace have two young daughters named Isabelle and Maggie. They are played by amazing little actresses who show an incredible range of emotion and sincerity. They brought me to tears a couple of times.

Here's the story (without spoilers): While in Afghanistan, Sam's helicopter is shot down by Taliban fighters, but somehow Sam survives and is taken prisoner. However, he is reported back home as killed in action. Naturally Grace and the girls are devastated. Sam's younger brother Tommy, on parole for robbing a bank, is transformed by the event and becomes the family protector and surrogate father for the little girls. When the news arrives that Sam is not dead after all, the stage is set for all kinds of personal and family drama.

I can't say much more without spoiling the movie for you.

Among other things, Brothers is a study in family systems. The relationships Sam and Tommy have with their father Hank (played ably by Sam Shepard) are performance-based. You see how a lifetime of conditional love affected the two brothers entirely differently - one becoming a military leader, the other a deadbeat - yet neither brother has a healthy relationship with their father.

Sam and Tommy thus illustrate the two brothers in the Prodigal Son story of Luke 15. Jesus told that story to show that both the moral person and the immoral person need the gospel. Sam and Tommy's very different stories intersect at the point of deep spiritual need. Neither one has the kind of relationship with their father that can carry them through the traumatic events that unfold here. However, they do have each other, so the movie is a touching look at the nature of brotherly love.

The movie is also a study in the nature and effects of guilt. But that's all I'll say about that.

See Brothers. It's raw and emotional, but I think you'll love it as much as I did. My wife and I walked out of the theater almost trembling from the tension, heartache, and energy of this movie.

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