Brothers (15)

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The Independent Culture

Jim Sheridan's drama of guilt and forgiveness reworks the Danish director Susanne Bier's 2005 film, adding an extra polish to the story of US Army captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), who's missing presumed dead after his helicopter is shot down in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Back home, his grieving widow (Natalie Portman) and their two young daughters find solace in the tender care of Sam's younger brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), an ex-jailbird whose lifelong delinquency has set him at odds with the family patriarch (Sam Shepard). Months later, Sam returns from the dead, plainly haunted by his ordeal and convinced that his wife and his brother have been more than friends to one another. What Sam endures at the hands of the Taliban makes for a terrible scene that I remembered all too well from the original, dominated by Connie Nielsen and Ulrich Thomsen with an appalled intensity that felt unlikely to be surpassed: it hasn't been, though Portman is extremely good as the baffled and frightened wife caught between the two brothers.

Maguire and Gyllenhaal give honest performances, though they don't really convince as blood. Carey Mulligan, our own current darling, makes a brief but telling appearance as a war widow.