After hearing a lot of good things about a sleepy film from Denmark called Brothers, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. After all, we are talking about a country that has produced a visionary director in Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves), but whose films have been a little bit on the polarizing side.
Produced as part of the Danish Dogme productions and written and directed by Susanne Bier (who created the underrated Open Hearts), Brothers is ab…ut a married couple named Michael (Ulrich Thomsen, Kingdom of Heaven) and his wife Sarah (Connie Nielsen, Gladiator), who live in a nice house with their daughters Natalia and Camilla. Michael is in the Danish army, and when he is ordered to go to Afghanistan for a UN mission, he leaves his family behind of course. Before he goes, Michael meets his delinquent brother Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas, The Idiots), who has just been released from prison after apparently getting into a fight with (and seriously injuring) a woman. The family (and parents) are embarrassed of his behavior and have seemed resigned to bailing him out of trouble at a bar or more serious location.
Once Michael gets to Afghanistan, he is sent to find a fellow Dane who has been missing for several days. En route to a nearby location via helicopter, he is shot down over a river and the plane falls in the water, where Michael is missing and pronounced dead. Jannik sees this as the perfect time to step in and help take care of Sarah and the girls, but does so with pure intentions. He and Sarah do kiss in a scene, but they both agree it was a mistake. When it is discovered that Michael has not only been found, but found alive after being rescued from an Afghani prison camp, Jannik, Sarah and the girls welcome him back, but they do not know the lengths Michael had to go to stay alive while he was a prisoner, and those circumstances change him almost irrevocably.
The performances by the three leads in the film are very good, but Thomsen and Nielsen’s performances are outstanding. Thomsen goes through a lot of personal turmoil in the film and he is very captivating to watch, and his actions upon his return are poignant and tragic. Nielsen was the subject of a lot of praise for her job, and she does it well, as at times you can see on her face how hard it has been to support Michael, even after what he’s done to the family. The film is as effective emotionally as any recent film I’ve seen, and may serve as the most effective anti-war statement put on film in recent years.
There’s a 2 channel mix in Danish, but there’s also a 5.1 channel mix for enjoyment as well. This one really does what it’s supposed to do, with no erratic recording of dialogue that would force you to crank up the action sequences, and those even include the surround speakers too. The film’s score can also be heard on the rear speakers to boot, which I also enjoyed.
The 1.78:1 widescreen presentation given to Brothers is much better than I expected, but I probably expect Scandanavian films to mostly appear dull and drab. Here there are various different landscapes that the films appears to have been shot in, and they all look with, with film grain present throughout.
Nada. No trailer, not even a quick behind the scenes featurette with English subtitles. Oh well, the film speaks for itself regardless.
Brothers has the reputation of being a good film that almost nobody outside of the critics’ circle has seen. But it’s a powerful piece of storytelling that touches almost all facets of emotion, and the starring performances are well worth the time of reading subtitles for two hours. A definite recommendation to rent or watch when (or if) it appears on cable.