Monday, August 30, 2010


Directed by Jim Sheridan.
2009. Rated R, 105 minutes.
Tobey Maguire
Natalie Portman
Jake Gyllenhall
Sam Shepard
Bailee Madison
Taylor Geare
Mare Winningham
Patrick John Fleuger
Clifton Collins Jr.
Carey Mulligan

Sam (Maguire) is a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corp and everything his father hoped he’d be. His brother Tommy (Gyllenhall) is quite the opposite. In fact, Tommy is fresh out of jail and hoping to piece his life together. To make matters worse, Dad (Shepherd) isn’t the least bit shy about sharing his disdain for Tommy, all the while comparing him to Sam.

A couple other wrinkles pop up in our tale. First, Sam is sent off to Afghanistan, leaving behind his wife Grace (Portman) and their two daughters. Shortly thereafter comes the second. Sam is presumed dead after a helicopter accident. After this, Tommy decides to clean up and help out his sister-in-law best he can. Of cours, the two take a shine to one another. I’ll stop there so I won’t spoil the rest.

It’s not as tawdry as it sounds and not anywhere near what the trailers make it out to be. In fact, it’s a thoughtful look at a set of serious and delicated issues. It feels like something that may have played out a time or two across this country over the last few years. The writing is pretty spot on, as are the performances by Portman, Gyllenhall and especially Shepherd.

However, I did have a problem with Tobey Maguire. He isn’t egregiously bad. Some might even say he’s quite good, here. I just never felt the right vibe from him. He seems not to have an adequate enough dark side to pull from. Then again, it could be me. He’s become so synonymous with Spider-Man, I spent half the movie kind of expecting him to don the mask and tights and bust out of the P.O.W. camp he spends a large chunk of time in. And it might not be me. I spent the other half of the movie wondering why Edward Norton isn’t playing this role. The last time I saw him, he looked young enough in appearance for the part and it’s the type of character he excels at playing. While not possessing quite the boy scout charm of Maguire, which is appropriate early on, when the character changes Norton’s persona is more suited to the role. He is simply the scarier man.

Still, it’s an excellent watch that offers food for thought. It also offers relevance, something many movies cannot.

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