Operation Enduring Freedom seems to have replaced Vietnam as Hollywood's go-to military quagmire from which to dredge gut-wrenching meditations on the psychological carnage of war. July brought The Hurt Locker, November The Messenger. Now, we have Brothers, Jim Sheridan's remake of Danish director Susanne Bier's 2004 film Brødre, to kick up comparisons with The Deer Hunter.
Having inherited a devotion to the Marines from his 'Nam-vet dad (Sam Shepard), golden boy Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) leaves behind his wife (Natalie Portman) and kids for a fourth tour in Afghanistan, where he's captured and tortured by Taliban fighters. Presuming him dead, the Cahill clan grieves and bonds anew, and Sam's black-sheep ex-con brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), finds a new foothold in life.
But when Sam is rescued and returns home a hollow-eyed, rage-filled shadow of his former self, the family must confront its ghosts. Not content simply to bang the "war is hell" gong, Brothers is an elegant and devastating exploration of identity.