"Maguire is outstanding as Sam and opposite him Portman does her best work yet"

There is a grim timeliness to the release of “Brothers,” Jim Sheridan’s film about the effects of war on the family of a Marine serving in Afghanistan. Too often we lose touch of the reality of war but this film brings the true impact home. The brothers in “Brothers” are Tommy and Sam Cahill, the wreckless one and a solid citizen who swap temperaments in the middle of the film. At the beginning, a twitchy, sullen Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) has just been released from prison. The crime that put him there is alluded to but never specified, and his return is overshadowed by the impending departure of Sam (Tobey Maguire) for another tour of duty.

Maguire is outstanding as Sam and opposite him Portman does her best work yet, she is radiant here, turning in a poignant, complex performance as a mother of two, who must deal with the initial mourning of her husband, the joy of his return, and the messy aftermath. Gyllenhaal has more of a supporting role but he makes Tommy a important part of the story.

Its a touching and sad film, but it could have been a bit better. The script and title of suggest a big tension or interplay between the brothers but I found the brother relationship was lacking in substance. The ingredients for some serious tension and emotional pain were in place but were never put to use. We know that one rises while the other falls, and that their ties finally save them, but their ties aren't really established fully in the important opening scenes. 

Still, beside the complaints, I thought it was enjoyable and the last part saved it for me. I would recommend it for the melodrama, a raging and paranoid Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal whom I always like, and depiction of war anguish including the fight for survival and the trauma of war on a normal, sensitive human. Brothers leaves you thinking and wondering what happened, but it's shows you the true meaning of family. It's surely worth a look at some point though possibly not worth an over priced admission price.