If you have yet to see this film, do yourself a favor and watch it. It stars Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman, all of whom turn in fine performances. The film deals with the psychological damage caused by war and how it affects veterans and their families.
The tale revolves around 3 main characters: Captain Sam Cahill, his wife Grace, and the “black sheep” brother, Tommy. Sam is a war hero, and a great husband, father, and brother. He has a big heart, often being the only person in his family who cares after his brother, Tommy, an individual with a sordid past who has never lived up to his family’s expectations. Tommy has never been able to make anything meaningful of his life, and has given up trying to live up to the high standards set by his older brother, Sam.
When Sam is shipped off to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty, his helicopter is gunned down by the Taliban and he and a member of his squad are taken prisoner. They have to endure months of torture and mistreatement at the hands of their captors. Meanwhile, Grace has been wrongly informed that her husband was killed in action, so she has to deal with the grief of losing a husband and a father to her children. In the midst of the upheaval at the Cahill household, Tommy steps up and begins to help out by doing work around the house and taking care of his brother’s 2 girls. He grows closer to Grace and the children as he begins to regain a sense of belonging through his new relationship with them.
Sam Cahill is rescued from his captors, brought back home, and once again hailed as a “hero” by his community. He tries to get back into the routine of being a good husband and father, but it is difficult. The war has done its damage. His mind wanders and he considers the worst in situations. It is a chilling moment when at the crux of the film, he turns to his brother Tommy and asks him if he slept with his wife. It is a chilling moment that I expected (from having watched the trailer) but found powerful nonetheless. The downward spiral continues for Captain Cahill and his family.
In all, wonderful performances and great writing. It definitely makes me want to check out the original 2004 Danish film Brødre which takes place in Afghanistan and Denmark. This is a well-done exploration of the psychological repercussions of war for soldiers and their families.
4 out of 5 stars.