Brothers (2009 film)

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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]

Brothers is a 2009 American psychological thriller 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 extreme PTSD while reintegrating into society following his release from captivity.[2] 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.[3]

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 officer Sam Cahill is about to be sent to war in Afghanistan. He is married to his high school girlfriend Grace, and together, they have two young daughters, Isabelle and Maggie. Sam's older brother, Tommy, is a criminal who is just released from prison on parole a few days before Sam's departure after recently being arrested for armed robbery, and moves in with his father Hank, and his stepmother Elsie. At a family dinner with Hank and Elsie, Maggie reveals to Tommy that Grace dislikes him, and Hank insults Tommy for his lack of understanding.

During Sam's tour, his helicopter is shot down and he and Private Joe Willis are the sole survivors. They are taken prisoner by the Taliban, but are declared killed in action by the government. Upon hearing the news of his brother's death, Tommy berates Grace for letting Sam go to Afghanistan, and rebuffs her when she offers to let him stay in her house. At Sam's funeral in absentia, Hank attempts to drive Elsie and the girls home while drunk, but Tommy intercepts him. Hank once again berates Tommy, and Tommy accuses Hank of influencing Sam to join the Marines because of his own Vietnam War service.

Tommy attempts to redeem himself and joins some friends to complete a kitchen remodel for Grace. Hank and Tommy also mend their relationship, and Grace bonds with Tommy, aided by his growing paternal connection with Isabelle and Maggie. Tommy also apologizes to the store owner whom he robbed. Grace and Tommy share a fireside kiss, but do not take their attraction any further. However, Tommy continues to remain close with the family and his nieces grow attached to him. Meanwhile, Sam and Joe are tortured by their captors and Sam is eventually forced to brutally beat Joe to death.

Sometime later, Sam is rescued and returns home, where he struggles to readjust, showing signs of severe post-traumatic stress disorder; his daughters grow fearful and resentful toward him. Sam also lies to Joe's widow about her husband's death. His paranoia also causes him to believe Grace and Tommy fell in love while he went away, causing him to remain aloof. When Grace questions Sam about what happened in Afghanistan, Sam demands to know what happened between her and Tommy. Grace tells Sam that she and Tommy kissed while he was gone, but Sam has trouble believing that is all that happened. When Grace questions Sam again, Sam does not respond and walks away.

During Maggie's birthday party, Isabelle is rude to her sister and jealously complains that Maggie got what she wanted for her birthday, while Isabelle did not. Isabelle chastises Sam for being in Afghanistan during her birthday, but being able to attend Maggie's. Isabelle then begins to play with a balloon loudly, and, despite objections from Sam and Grace, triggers Sam's PTSD, causing him to become irritated and annoyed and burst the balloon out of fury in front of the family. Already scared and resentful of Sam's erratic behavior and violent mood swings, a hurt Isabelle falsely claims that Tommy and Grace are having an affair and angrily tells Sam that she wishes he had actually died.

Returning home, Sam, believing his daughter's story, loses his temper and wrecks the kitchen with a crowbar in front of Grace angrily. He suddenly calms down when Tommy shows up and attempts to bring Sam into an embrace, trying to calm his brother's violent breakdown, while Grace isolates her daughters from their father. However, Sam immediately becomes defensive and takes his anger out on Tommy when he realizes that Tommy has already called the police. DOD Police arrive and confront Sam, leading into a standoff. He fires a pistol into the air and demands that the policemen kill him before holding the gun to his own head, contemplating suicide, but reluctantly changes his mind and surrenders after several protests from Tommy and a tearful Grace.

Sam is arrested and admitted to a Veterans' Affairs hospital. Grace visits, giving him an ultimatum that if he does not tell her the truth, Sam will lose her forever. Sam finally confesses that he killed Joe and they embrace, wondering if he will ever be able to live a normal life again.



Box office[edit]

On its opening weekend, the film opened #3 with $9,527,848 behind New Moon and The Blind Side.[4] Since its box office debut, the film has grossed $43,318,349 worldwide.[1]

Critical response[edit]

Brothers received mixed reviews from film critics. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 64% based on 158 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."[5] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 58 out of 100, based on 31 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[6]

Tobey Maguire received critical acclaim for his dramatic performance; Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars and wrote that Brothers is "Tobey Maguire's film to dominate, and I've never seen these dark depths in him before."[7] 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".[8] 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.[9] 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."[10]


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."[11]

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 media[edit]

Brothers was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 23, 2010.[12]

Opera adaptation[edit]

Brothers – The Opera 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.[13]


  1. ^ a b c "Brothers (2009) Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
  2. ^ "A War Abroad Ignites a Battle at Home". The New York Times. December 3, 2009. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  3. ^ All Things Considered (2009-11-29). "Director Jim Sheridan On 'Brothers'". NPR. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
  4. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for December 4–6, 2009". Box Office Mojo. 2009-12-14. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  5. ^ "Brothers (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved April 8, 2024.
  6. ^ "Brothers (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Archived from the original on December 6, 2009. Retrieved December 25, 2009.
  7. ^ Roger Ebert. "Brothers". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 2012-03-12. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  8. ^ Puig, Claudia (2009-12-04). "Afghanistan war-themed 'Brothers' is a keeper -". USA Today. Retrieved 2020-09-26.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (2009-12-02). "Brothers". Retrieved 2020-09-26.
  11. ^ "Stars react to Golden Globe nominations". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-12-15. [dead link]
  12. ^ "Brothers DVD Release Date & Blu-ray Details". DVDsReleases. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  13. ^ "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 links[edit]