Brothers -- Film Review

Bottom Line: A remake of a Danish film has much to admire but never comes together with the impact of the original.

The simple yet powerful story of the Prodigal Son was given a vigorous new interpretation in the 2004 Danish film "Brothers," directed by Susanne Bier from a screenplay she wrote with Anders Thomas Jensen. Irish director Jim Sheridan, who has made his films in America in recent years, now delivers an American remake that hues closely to the original but loses some of its true grit. The emotional devastation of the final reels still hits you hard, but you wonder how things would have played had Sheridan and writer David Benioff ("The Kite Runner") ventured into new territory.

"Brothers" boasts an impressive cast including Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal as the diametrically opposed siblings, with Natalie Portman as the woman caught between their forceful personalities. The movie looks to draw serious and older audiences, though the casting should attract more than a few young filmgoers. It certainly is heartening to see Lionsgate, with this film and the critically lauded "Precious," balance genre fare with artistically adventurous releases.

Neither version of "Brothers" is afraid to posit characters at such extremes as its two brothers. Sam Cahill (Maguire) is a straight-arrow Marine captain from a military family. He got good grades, played football, married his high school sweetheart, Grace (Portman), and is ready to deploy to Afghanistan on a fourth tour of duty. Younger brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal), just out of the slammer for bank robbery, is a drunk and a fool.

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