Following his frankly baffling move five years ago when he took the reins for the cliché-ridden 50 Cent vehicle Get Rich or Die Tryin' it's good to have Jim Sheridan back in the game with a proper movie featuring a decent story and real actors.
Based on Danish director Suzanne Bier's 2004 movie, Brødre, but with the setting changed to America, this is a film which tackles themes that have inspired writers for, oh, millennia: namely, strife within families, filial competition and the effects of war on the returning soldier.
We begin with Tobey Maguire's Sam Cahill following in his father's footsteps by serving in the Marine Corps and looking forward to a second tour in Afghanistan, much to the disappointment of his wife Grace (Natalie Portman), who'd much prefer to have him closer to home to help with raising their two daughters.
Meanwhile, Sam's younger brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the black sheep of the family, a criminal who barely exists in the eyes of his father (Sam Shepard). There's an explosive enough mix there to begin with but the story really kicks into gear when Sam's helicopter is shot down; he's missing presumed dead and Tommy begins to spend more time helping Grace overcome her uncertainty over her husband's fate.
Sheridan's depiction of life in an army town is convincing and there are echoes of The Deer Hunter in this aspect of the film, but what sends the drama spiralling towards a tightly wound final act is when Sam is rescued from the Taliban months after his capture; traumatised by his captivity and deeply suspicious of how comfortable his brother seems around his wife and kids.
Maguire, Gyllenhaal, Portman and Shepard turn in excellent performances as do Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare as the daughters. Brothers deals with adult themes in an intelligent, yet still entertaining fashion.