The English-language debut of Swedish thriller director Daniel Espinosa is a “high-octane”, “intense”, “no holds barred” (delete as appropriate) maelstrom of secrets, spies and badly edited fight scenes. The cast is fine and it’s always nice to go back to South Africa (fokken prawns!), but surely we’ve outgrown two hour gunfights interspersed with trash talk?
Turns out the hope we held out for Brothers wasn’t unwarranted. This tragic portrait of the effects of war on young lives brims with real emotion and powerhouse performances from its lead actors, particularly Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman. For the most part, despite the potential for cheese in its subject matter (man goes off to war, brother steps in to fill his shoes on the home front, man turns out not to be dead and returns to awkward situation in family), the narrative avoids cliche and leaves you with a real, confronting sense of heartbreak. It’s a harrowing film experience that hits you right in the guts, and it could well be the resurrection of Maguire’s post-Peter Parker career.