Tuesday, May 27, 2008


BROTHERS (***1/2), the 2004 film from director Susanne Bier (AFTER THE WEDDING, THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE), is another dramatically powerful story from the filmmaker. It's a dark film that explores tough themes and while it wasn't as uplifting as Bier's other films that I've seen, it's still certainly worth watching. Utilizing an almost exclusive hand-held shooting style and mostly eschewing a traditional musical score, BROTHERS tells the devastating story about how the lives of two brothers are changed when one is sent off to war. Again getting tremendous performances from her actors, the film stars Ulrich Thomsen as Michael, a married soldier who receives orders that he'll be shipping out to Afghanistan. His wife, Sarah (Connie Nielsen), is obviously scared and upset that her husband will be taking off for war; their children are too young to truly understand what's going on around them. Michael tells his sloppy brother, Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), to keep an eye on Sarah and their kids while he's gone, and to look after them if he doesn't make it back from battle. Not long after his deployment, Michael's helicopter is shot down and he's presumed dead. Sarah is visited by some military-types who tell her and Jannik that Michael has been killed in action. However, Michael is not dead; he's been injured and taken captive by terrorists. It's what happens during his POW-experience that changes him forever. Meanwhile, Jannik and Sarah develop an interesting bond now that they think Michael is dead. And without spoiling anything, I will say that the way Bier casually subverts your expectations of what might happen in a story like this is just one of the many reasons that BROTHERS is an excellent movie. Michael comes home, but he's a changed person, and not for the better. Something terrible happened when he was being held as a prisoner, and it has psychological ramifications that nobody knows how to deal with, least of which Michael. BROTHERS is Bier's darkest and angriest film yet (or that I've seen) and it was interesting to see how she avoided some of the inherent sentimentality that a story like this possesses. Again, the acting, especially that of Thomsen, was superb, and the writing was honest, clear, and focused. The relationship between Jannik and Sarah was complex without becoming trite, and the film really explodes during its last section. This is a commanding film from Bier, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite current filmmakers.

No comments: