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 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.[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.


In October 2007, United States Marine Corps captain Sam Cahill is about to embark on his fourth combat deployment to Afghanistan. He is 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 on parole a few days before Sam gets deployed. 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 lack of success compared to Sam.

During Sam's tour, his Blackhawk helicopter is shot down in Helmand Province. Sam and private Joe Willis are the sole survivors and are taken prisoner by Taliban fighters. Sam and Joe are declared killed in action by the U.S. government. At Sam's funeral, Hank attempts to drive Elsie and the girls home while drunk, but Tommy stops him. Hank again berates Tommy; and Tommy blames Hank for influencing Sam to join the Marines because of his own Vietnam War service.

Tommy attempts to redeem himself and completes 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. 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 beat Joe to death.

Sometime later, Sam is rescued by American forces and returns home. However, 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 was gone, causing him to remain aloof. During Maggie's birthday, an indignant Isabelle falsely claims that Tommy and Grace are having an affair and wishes Sam was actually dead. Returning home, Sam becomes enraged, destroying the kitchen with a crowbar and aims a pistol at Tommy, who tries to calm his brother's violent breakdown.

The police arrive and enter a standoff with Sam, who fires the gun into the air before holding it to his own head, contemplating suicide. He reluctantly surrenders after several pleas from Tommy and Grace. He is arrested and admitted to a Department of Veterans' Affairs mental hospital. Grace visits, giving him an ultimatum that if he doesn't tell her what happened, he'll forever lose her. Sam finally opens up, confiding in her that he killed Joe; and they embrace. In narration, he wonders if he will ever live a normal life.



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 159 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 September 22, 2019.
  6. ^ "Brothers (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved December 25, 2009.
  7. ^ Roger Ebert. "Brothers". Chicago Sun-Times.
  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]