Brothers (2009 film)

Brothers is a 2009 American psychological drama war film directed by Jim Sheridan and written by David Benioff. A remake of the 2004 Danish film, it follows Captain Sam Cahill (portrayed by Tobey Maguire), a presumed-dead prisoner of the War in Afghanistan who deals with post-traumatic stress while reintegrating into society following his release from captivity. The film also stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Cahill's brother and Natalie Portman as his wife. Both films take inspiration from Homer's epic poem the Odyssey.[2]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byJim Sheridan
Screenplay byDavid Benioff
Based onBrødre
by Susanne Bier
and Anders Thomas Jensen
Produced by
CinematographyFrederick Elmes
Edited byJay Cassidy
Music byThomas Newman
Distributed byLionsgate
Release date
  • December 4, 2009 (2009-12-04)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$26 million[1]
Box office$43.5 million[1]

The film received a mixed response and grossed $43 million. Maguire, however, received particular praise for his performance, receiving a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.


United States Marine Corps captain Sam Cahill is about to embark on his fourth combat deployment. He is a steadfast family man married to his high school sweetheart Grace, and together they raise two young daughters, Isabelle and Maggie. Sam's brother Tommy is a convicted felon who is released from prison a few days before Sam deploys to Afghanistan in October 2007. At a family dinner with Tommy and Sam's parents Hank and Elsie, Maggie reveals to Tommy that Grace dislikes him, and Hank insults Tommy for his time in prison and lack of success compared to Sam.

During Sam's tour, his Blackhawk helicopter is shot down while conducting an operation in the Helmand Province, apparently killing all of the Marines aboard. However, Sam and one of the Marines in his command, Joe Willis, have survived and are taken prisoner in a mountain village by Taliban fighters. Assumed to have been killed in action, Sam and Joe are declared dead by the US military. At Sam's funeral, Tommy notices Hank drinking and stops him from driving home with Elsie and the girls in the car. Hank again berates Tommy for his past mistakes and tells him that Sam was a better son. The two argue about which one of them is more to blame for Sam's death.

With Sam gone, Tommy attempts to redeem himself in the eyes of his family and convinces some of his friends to help with a kitchen remodel for Grace. As months pass, Hank and Tommy mend their relationship as Tommy matures and continues to help Grace. Grace slowly sheds her previous resentment towards her brother-in-law, aided by his growing paternal connection with Isabelle and Maggie. Grace and Tommy continue to bond over their mutual mourning, culminating in a passionate fireside kiss. They immediately regret it and do not take their attraction any further, though Tommy continues to win the favor of his nieces. Meanwhile, Sam and Joe are tortured by their captor and instructed to make videotaped dismissals of the military and their mission, though only Joe cracks. The captors eventually deem him useless and force Sam at gunpoint to beat Joe to death with a lead pipe, which they also record.

Sometime later, Sam is rescued by American forces in an attack on the Taliban base that destroys the tape of him killing Joe. Once he returns home, Sam drifts through a cold, paranoid daze and shows signs of severe post-traumatic stress disorder due to the traumatic events he witnessed and committed in Afghanistan. Refusing to explain to his family what happened while he was there, Sam also lies to Joe's widow and claims he does not know how Joe died. His paranoia also leads him to believe Grace cheated on him with Tommy in his absence. During Maggie's 6th birthday party at Hank and Elsie's home, a resentful and jealous Isabelle falsely claims that Tommy and Grace are having an affair and that Grace would rather sleep with Tommy than Sam. After the family returns home, Sam becomes enraged, destroying the newly remodeled kitchen with a crowbar and aiming a Beretta 92 pistol at Tommy, who tries to calm his brother's violent breakdown.

The police arrive and enter a standoff in which Sam fires the gun into the air and then holds it to his head, contemplating suicide. He reluctantly surrenders after several pleas from Tommy and Grace. After the police arrest Sam, he is admitted to a mental hospital. Grace visits him and tells him that if he does not tell her what is tormenting him, he will lose her forever. Faced with this decision, Sam finally opens up about the source of his pain, confiding in her that he killed Joe. As Sam and Grace embrace, we hear Sam wondering (via narration) if he will be able to continue living a normal life.



Box officeEdit

On its opening weekend, the film opened #3 with $9,527,848 behind New Moon and The Blind Side.[3] Since its box office debut the film has grossed $43,318,349 worldwide.[1]

Critical responseEdit

Brothers received mixed reviews from film critics. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 64% based on 157 reviews, with an average score of 6.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "It plays more like a traditional melodrama than the Susanne Bier film that inspired it, but Jim Sheridan's Brothers benefits from rock-solid performances by its three leads."[4] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 58 out of 100, based on 31 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[5]

Tobey Maguire received critical acclaim for his dramatic performance; Roger Ebert wrote that Brothers is "Tobey Maguire's film to dominate, and I've never seen these dark depths in him before."[6] Claudia Puig of USA Today observed the resemblance between Maguire and Gyllenhaal, and praised their onscreen chemistry. Regarding Portman's performance, Puig opined that it was "subdued and reactive".[7] Writing for New York magazine, David Edelstein praised the three main actors: "Sheridan’s actors work with their intellects fully engaged—and they engage us on levels we barely knew we had." He also complimented the cinematography and Sheridan's ability to pull the reader into the plot.[8] Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman gave the film a rating of C+, writing, "Brothers isn’t badly acted, but as directed by the increasingly impersonal Jim Sheridan, it’s lumbering and heavy-handed, a film that piles on overwrought dramatic twists until it begins to creak under the weight of its presumed significance."[9]


Of his Golden Globe Award nomination, Tobey Maguire said "I had no expectation about getting a nomination, but I was watching nonetheless. My wife and my son got really excited. I was sort of surprised — I was like, 'Oh, wow.' And I couldn't hear the latter part of my name." The Edge of U2 described how the band planned to celebrate their nomination. "I think we might have a pint of Guinness and eat a potato in honor of (director) Jim (Sheridan) and his great piece of work."[10]

Year Ceremony Category Recipients Result
2009 15th Critics' Choice Awards Best Young Actor / Actress Bailee Madison Nominated
36th Saturn Awards Best Action or Adventure Film Brothers Nominated
Best Actor Tobey Maguire Nominated
Best Actress Natalie Portman Nominated
Best Performance by a Younger Actor Bailee Madison Nominated
67th Golden Globe Awards Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Tobey Maguire Nominated
Best Original Song "Winter" by U2 Nominated
2010 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actor – Drama Tobey Maguire Nominated
Jake Gyllenhaal Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards 2009 Best Supporting Actress Natalie Portman Nominated
Denver Film Critics Society Awards 2009 Best Original Song "Winter" By U2 Nominated

Home mediaEdit

Brothers was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 23, 2010.[citation needed]

Opera adaptationEdit

Brothers – The Opera [link to German Wikipedia article] is an opera based on the original 2004 Danish version of the film by Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason; it was premiered at the Musikhuset Aarhus on 16 August 2017. It was commissioned by Den Jyske Opera. Kerstin Perski wrote the libretto and the director was Kasper Holten. To celebrate Aarhus as the European Capital of Culture 2017, three stage works – a musical, dance, and an opera all based on films by Susanne Bier – were commissioned and performed in Musikhuset.[11]


  1. ^ a b c "Brothers (2009) Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
  2. ^ All Things Considered (2009-11-29). "Director Jim Sheridan On 'Brothers'". NPR. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
  3. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for December 4–6, 2009". Box Office Mojo. 2009-12-14. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  4. ^ "Brothers (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved September 22, 2019.
  5. ^ "Brothers (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved December 25, 2009.
  6. ^ Roger Ebert. "Brothers". Chicago Sun-Times.
  7. ^ Puig, Claudia (2009-12-04). "Afghanistan war-themed 'Brothers' is a keeper -". USA Today. Retrieved 2020-09-26.
  8. ^ Edelstein, David (2009-11-25). "David Edelstein on 'Brothers' and 'Up in the Air' -- New York Magazine Movie Review - Nymag". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2020-09-26.
  9. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (2009-12-02). "Brothers". Retrieved 2020-09-26.
  10. ^ "Stars react to Golden Globe nominations". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-12-15.[dead link]
  11. ^ "Kulturhaupstadt Aarhus – Uraufführung der Oper Brødre" [Cultural capital Aarhus – World premiere of the opera Brødre]. Deutschlandfunk (in German). 17 August 2017. Archived from the original on 25 February 2018. Retrieved 25 February 2018.

External linksEdit