brothersAbout ten years ago, three promising young actors were working to secure a place amongst the Hollywood A-list. Natalie Portman had finished her first major acting role, as Mathilda in Luc Bessons Leon. She would go on to make her major breakthrough in the Star Wars prequels. Tobey Maguire had small roles in respected films like The Cider House Rules and Wonder Boys, then also got his major break in a high budget franchise, winning the role of Spiderman. Jake Gyllenhaal came to public attention through his role in sleeper Indie hit Donnie Darko, then hit the big time through a combination of big budget popcorn in The Day After Tomorrow, and critically acclaimed drama in Brokeback Mountain. Next week in the US, these three actors, firmly A-List, come together for Jim Sheridan’s brothers.
Brothers is a remake of Susanne Bier’s Danish film Brodre. Tobey Maguire plays Captain Sam Cahill, a family man, married with two young daughters. Sam is sent overseas to Afghanistan on his fourth tour of duty, and goes missing during the fighting. Maguire showed he was capable of good dramatic work early on, with parts in The Cider House Rules and Wonder Boys. He hit the big time with Spiderman and it’s sequels, but has struggled since to land good serious roles. With a compelling drama like Brothers in his hands, he’ll be hoping to use the chance to re-establish himself as a talented, well rounded actor.
Natalie Portman plays Sam’s wife Grace, who has to struggle to take care of daughters Isabelle and Maggie when her husband is overseas. Portman in contrast has done a great job of shaking off the stigma of the underwhelming Star Wars trilogy, in which she played a major role. Since Revenge of the Sith she has shone in movies as diverse as The Other Boleyn Girl, The Darjeeling Limited and V for Vendetta.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Sam’s drifter brother Tommy, a charismatic rogue fresh out of prison. Gyllenhaal has continued to mix dramatic and commercial roles since he came to the fore, including great performances in Sam Mendes’ downbeat Jarhead, and Zodiac. Tommy moves in to the family home in Sam’s absence, to take care of his brother’s family. However, with no way of knowing if Sam will ever return, a relationship develops between Tommy and Grace.
The ill-advised union raises eyebrows amongst their extended family, and is sure to tear the family apart if Sam does ever come back. Brothers also stars An Education’s Carey Mulligan, tipped to become the next big thing in the coming year, with roles in Wall Street 2 and Never Let Me Go also on her slate.
Irishman Jim Sheridan is no stranger to dramatic movies, having directed the critically acclaimed My Left Foot in 1989, then later 1997’s The Boxer. Having helmed the ill-advised Get Rich or Die Tryin’ with Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson four years ago, Sheridan will be hoping this latest film will be a return to his past excellent form.
The screenplay has been adapted from the original Danish picture by writer David Benioff. Benioff has a past record of mixed quality. He was responsible for so-so epic Troy, and the awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s not all bad news however, as the scribe also produced cinematic gold in well received drama The Kite Runner. With a good source film to work with, all are hoping this script will be more comparable to the latter.
As a small dramatic piece, box office could run very slow for Brothers. Sheridan doesn’t have a lot of name value amongst mainstream movie-goers. Furthermore, despite having had lead performances in movies that grossed hundreds of million dollars, none of the three young actors are a proven draw. Spiderman and Star Wars are big franchises that would have grossed big with any cast. Similarly, Emmerich’s big budget disaster flicks have a history of making lots of money with almost B-list casts. Disney will certainly be hoping that Gyllenhaal shows some kind of cache here, as he is the star of their next big franchise hope Prince of Persia, due next year.
Sheridan has had a taste of Oscar with nomination for My Left Foot as best director. He’ll be hoping all the elements will come together to enable him another stab. Certainly he has the talent, as do the young cast he has put together. Decide for yourself if it looks like it has what it takes with the trailer here,  the TV Spot here, and some images here.

Brothers is released in the US next Friday 4th December, and in the UK on 22nd January.

Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at