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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Brothers

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal star in a scene from the movie "Brothers."
Though it offers a timely exploration of the dehumanizing effects of violence and the often difficult-to-bridge gulf between combat and civilian life, the war drama "Brothers" (Lionsgate/Relativity)—director Jim Sheridan's adaptation of Susanne Bier's 2004 Danish film "Brodre"—is left flatfooted by David Benioff's cliche-ridden and simplistic script.

This is all the sadder since the fine cast—led by Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal as the titular siblings and including Sam Shepard as their Vietnam-vet dad—do their best to add intensity to the somber, seriously minded proceedings.

Yet, as soon as we see upstanding Marine Sam Cahill (Maguire) depart the domestic tranquility of the home he shares with devoted wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and young daughters Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare) to fetch his fraternal opposite, charming ne'er-do-well Tommy (Gyllenhaal), on the latter's release from a prison stint, it's a cinch that subtlety will not be this cautionary tale's secret weapon.

An apparently fatal helicopter crash during Sam's latest tour of duty in Afghanistan, to which he ships off a few days later, initiates a role reversal. Tommy's previous lifestyle, since regaining his freedom, has been that of a bar-hopping bachelor. He nonetheless takes easily to his new role as Grace's substitute companion and caregiver to the kids, and he gradually matures from family black sheep to would-be family man.

Sam, meanwhile, who survived the accident only to be taken prisoner by the Taliban, suffers a horrifying moral breakdown during his captivity that threatens to haunt him for life.

Though Tommy and Grace, sincerely believing Sam to be lost, find their feelings for each other increasingly conflicted, they generally manage to exercise physical restraint, except for a moment when their prudence is undermined by a combination of beer and marijuana.

This comes soon after one of the plot's moral highlights when, as part of the turnaround in his outlook, Tommy approaches the victim of the robbery for which he was imprisoned to seek her forgiveness. His description of her relief at being assured that she need no longer fear him powerfully conveys the healing effect which such an encounter can accomplish.

Sam's path to reconciliation, though more perilous and more onerous, suggests, at least in a secular context, the value of confession, communication and vulnerable openness to the emotional support of loved ones.

The film contains sporadic intense violence, including torture; drug use, adultery and suicide themes; a few uses of profanity and frequent rough and some crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

******
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.




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Joan of Arc: 
		<p>Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.</p>
		<p>Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux (southeast of Paris), Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Sts. Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.</p>
		<p>During the Hundred Years War, she led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, she was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men's clothes. The English resented France's military success–to which Joan contributed. </p>
		<p>On this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.</p>
		<p>Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life "offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action" because her spiritual insight is that there should be a "unity of heaven and earth."</p>
		<p>Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas, and movies. </p>
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