2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

It takes a long time for Brothers to become the movie it wants to be, and even then, it stumbles. You slog through these early sections because the setup is so obvious yet compelling. (Brothers was originally a much better Danish film from 2004.) Delicate Tobey Maguire is Sam, a supersoldier (though you never quite believe it) gung ho for his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan. His hee-haw of a brother, Tommy (Gyllenhaal, shades of Brokeback Mountain), is just out of jail and the furthest thing from military. Several disapproving looks from Dad later, Tommy’s aching for a fight, but soon enough, Sam’s at war, captured by Taliban and presumed dead. Meanwhile, in the absence of his sainted brother, Tommy blooms with newfound responsibility, redecorating the kitchen of grieving wife Grace (Portman) and becoming a surrogate dad to her two young girls. Sam will, of course, return; we’ve seen his resolve in the pit.

So much of the preceding is goo-laden with mopey guitars and adorable kid shots, Jim Sheridan’s dual faults as a director. Still, shouldn’t we expect fireworks when an emaciated, paranoid Sam confronts the family he can no longer connect to? There’s an unwillingness to deliver the payoff; Brothers feels less like the Oscar-bait cinema we expect this time of year as much as an ersatz version that requires you to fill in the gaps. (The nearness of the recent The Messenger doesn’t help.) We’re supposed to creep up to the idea that war can steal more from a person than life and limb. That can’t be conveyed in a few simple scenes of kitchen histrionics. Sheridan brings on U2’s chords of healing way too soon.—Joshua Rothkopf

Opens Fri.

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