When Michael, a soldier on a UN mission to Afghanistan, is reported missing, his younger brother, Jannik, who has so far spent his life as drifter, steps up to hold the family together and begins to develop feelings for hi... more »s brother's wife, Sarah.
Dallas C. from PHILADELPHIA, PA Reviewed on 2/10/2013...
Enjoyed the film and can totally see why someone decided to remake it. Actually preferred the remake to the original. Not that it was bad at all. Both the Danish and American versions cover different aspects of the story.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Bryan L. (50kmwalk) from PT REYES STA, CA Reviewed on 4/24/2009...
Tense, realistic, drama about two brothers and the wife of one of them. Flmed in dutch with english subtitles the movie is something you just don't see in US films; characters who are flawed but so human you can't help but identify with them. The sub-plot of the husband serving in Iraq is timely and well done. I took a chance on this 'little movie' and was glad I did--it's a '10' in my book.
Cain and Abel 2005
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 07/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The bond between siblings is often stronger than the bond between parents and their children. For much of our lives, we look at our parents as "the enemy": we love them, to be sure, but it is a love that is flavored with adoration and repulsion at the same time. But it is with our brothers and sisters that we can ultimately form a comradeship, a we-against-the-world bond-a bond that is never broken, though interrupted surely, for our whole lives. Director Susanne Bier resurrects the ancient biblical story of Cain and Abel and sets it in Denmark and Afghanistan in her film "Brothers," which tells the story of Michael (Ulrich Thomsen, so good in "The Celebration") and Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas)...two brothers who are as different from one another as night is from day. Michael is an army officer, married to Sarah (a luminous Connie Nielsen) with two beautiful daughters. Jannik, at the beginning of the film, has just been released from prison and is none to happy to see his father awaiting him for dinner at Michael's home...from which he promptly exits brimming with anger when his father says something to the effect: why can't you be more like Michael? Michael is the perfect son, Jannik is the black sheep. Michael is dutiful, respectful, has never gotten into trouble. Jannik drinks too much, associates with the "wrong" people and has been in jail for bank robbery. Then Michael is sent to Afghanistan, is presumed dead from an explosion and everyone's world is toppled. Bier makes some interesting and dramatic points about what we humans are capable of in times of life-threatening danger and great need. Do we step up to the plate or do we cower from responsibility? Bier and her cinematographer Morton Soberg carefully and thoughtfully arrange the mise en scene so that the intimacy between the characters is palpable. The first scenes alone between a wary, suspicious Jannik and a chilly-towards him, Sarah are gorgeously and thoughtfully framed so as to accentuate the huge emotional chasm that exists between these two people: they both loved Michael and yet they can't initially verbalize, much less physically show how they feel. They are frozen with despair and stricken by regret. "Brothers" is personal, hyper- emotional but never mawkish. The acting is of the highest order. Don't come to "Brothers" expecting easy answers and pat resolutions. You won't find them. What you will find is a beautifully realized and executed story about human beings caught in the silky web of living in the contemporary world: a world tainted with war and deceptions both personal and global. "
A glimpse into what real life often is with no happy ending!
Wayne C. Rogers | Las Vegas, Nevada United States | 01/19/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Even with glasses my eyesight isn't the best, and I don't do very well at reading subtitles on a foreign movie, unless I stand right in front of the television screen while the movie is playing. Because of this, I seldom buy foreign films for my collection. I made a rare exception with Brothers, starring the lovely Connie Nielsen, Ulrich Thomsen, and Nikolaj Lie Kaas. I'd read a nice review of the film by an Amazon customer, and it triggered my interest in seeing the movie. Plus, I've enjoyed Ms. Nielsen in other movies.
The story deals with two brothers who seem to be the opposite of each other. One brother, Michael (played by Thomsen), is a Major in the Danish army, and he's a good-natured person who loves his family and always tries to do the right thing. The other brother, Jannik (played by Kaas), has just spent time in jail for a bank robbery and an assault on one of the bank's female employees. He likes to drink and fight, which doesn't leave a very good impression on those around him, especially his parents. Michael has always been the one who succeeded and got all of the positive attention, while Jannik remained the black sheep of the family. When Michael's unit is sent to Afghanistan to fight, he's in a helicopter crash and presumed dead. Jannik begins to help Michael's wife, Sarah (played by Connie Nielsen), and her two daughters as a way for all of them to deal with the tragic grief. Eventually, Jannik and Sarah fall in love with each other, only to have Michael return from the grave, which creates a rather unique situation for everybody.
There's going to be some plot spoilers so don't read on if it bothers you. First, let me say that the performers in the movie are all excellent. The actors give life and breath to their characters, and the audience certainly begins to care about them as human beings. You can clearly see the emotional struggle that both brothers endure with each other as well as with their parents. Connie Nielsen captures Sarah perfectly as a strong and loving woman who finds herself unexpectedly caught between her husband and his brother, both of whom have seemingly changed their personalities during the last half of the film. Second, the movie is a sad one with no resolution at the end. It's about life and tragedy and the ability to keep moving forward no matter how bad things get. This leads me to the two problems that I had with the film. While Michael is held prisoner in Afghanistan, he's forced to do something horrible in order to stay alive. It goes against his very nature as a human being. I found it extremely difficult to believe that he'd allow himself to be forced into doing what he did. He appeared to be too good of a man for something like this to happen, plus he's a Major in the army with the added strength and discipline to sustain him. If someone held a gun to my head and ordered me to hurt another human being, I'm don't know what my reaction would be. Would I tell my captors to go f*** themselves, or would I want to live so badly that I'd do as ordered? I don't know. No matter how much Michael wanted to live for his family, it just didn't ring true to me that he would do what his captors wanted. Add to that the fact that when he finally gets home, rather than keeping his guilt to himself and dealing with it stoically, he takes it out on everybody around him and comes close to destroying his own family. He certainly scares the daylights out of his wife and his children by threatening to kill them all. Michael turns out to be not as good or as strong as we first thought. The second problem with the movie is the time factor. We never really know how long Michael is held prisoner. It's never mentioned. I had to go by the length of his beard, which implied to me that he was gone between six and eight weeks. Even though he was reported dead, that seemed to me to be a relatively short amount of time for Sarah to go through the grieving process and then to develop strong feelings for the brother. If Michael had been gone for a year or longer, then I could understand what happened, but six weeks left me wondering just how much Sarah actually loved her husband. Now that I've ruined the ending for everyone, let me just reiterate that this is a good film and with excellent acting by the entire cast. The two little girls that play the daughters do a magnificent job portraying the confused feelings that they have for their father and with what's going on in the household. I do wish the ending of the movie hadn't left us hanging with no visible resolution. After having invested two hours of my time with this family, I wanted to have a clearer view of how things finally worked out. As another reviewer wrote, this film isn't for everybody, but if you like small, well-made films about life and sadness, then this is one you'll probably enjoy. "
A Danish Study of War, Family, And Loss--"Brothers" Is An Em
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 01/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On my quest to see every movie ever made, I've been catching up on some of the international films I've missed through the years. One of my absolute recent favorites was not a film I knew a lot about, although I was familiar with its actors. "Brothers" is a serious minded drama from Denmark. It stars Connie Nielsen who has enjoyed some English language success, most notably as the female lead in "Gladiator." The main cast is rounded out by Ulrich Thomsen from the brilliant "The Celebration" and Nikolaj Lie Kaas who was tremendous in Lars von Trier's "The Idiots." Not really knowing what to expect, I found this a powerful examination of love, war, and family--one that doesn't shy away from the emotional devastation that a war can create on the homefront.
Set within a "normal" middle class family, Thomsen and Nielsen play a married couple with two daughters. Into their lives comes Kaas, as Thomsen's brother, a problematic character always on the wrong side of the law. Kind of the black sheep, he spends his days on liquor and women--no one expects much of him and that's what he consistently delivers. Thomsen, who is an Army major, is called to Afghanistan. Almost instantly, his copter is shot down and he is reported as dead. The loss pulls Nielsen and Kaas together as they struggle with grief and loneliness. Kaas ends up finding some real meaning to his life as he comes to terms with what is left behind. But not all is at it seems, as Thomsen has actually been taken prisoner and is alive.
"Brothers" then follows concurrent storylines--one in Afghanistan and one in Denmark. Both are beautifully executed. The atrocities of war are well documented and the psychological implications are well established. Thomsen is great as a man who has everything stripped away, even his humanity. At home, the film is a poignant look at the grieving process, familial commitment, and learning to start again. Nielsen is an absolute revelation. Having found her rather stiff in most things, she is light and natural here. She blends the many layers of her character with great affect. And Kaas has much charm. His character's evolution is satisfying and rewarding.
As I mentioned earlier, I was a blank slate going into this film. But the movie resonates with real emotion and power. There is a realness to every situation, this is a true look at normal people caught up in a crisis. The heartbreak, rage, bitterness, jealousy, and shame displayed in the final acts provide bravado acting opportunities and searing emotional impact. I cared about these people, I wanted things to work out. But credit the film, again, for not taking an easy road--if tidy resolution is what you're after, this isn't the film for you. An incredibly moving, timely, and thought provoking experience. KGHarris, 01/07."
Best film of 2005 thus far
wannabemoviecritic | California | 05/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Michael (Ulrich Thomsen) and Jannek (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) are brothers living in Denmark: the former a loving husband/father and Danish troop visiting from Afghanistan, the latter an irresponsible drunk fresh from jail after assaulting a local woman. In the film's opening, we see Michael's subtle condescension to Jannek, his beautiful wife Sarah (Connie Nielson), his two adorable little girls: everything expected from the prototypical "good son." Jannek is seen drinking, smoking, defending himself from his father's harsh judgement. Director Susanne Bier presents them as the human embodiments of paradox. But early in the film, Michael leaves his home for Afghanistan, where his helicopter is shot down and he is reported dead.
Thus, the film takes a sharp turn and all changes, in some ways for the better.
Jannek sees in Sarah opportunity. Initially, she is only responsibility (perhaps warming up to her and helping out a bit is the "right thing to do"), but when their relationship blooms they discover in each other catharsis, which leads to unexpected implications but ultimately the kind of positivity needed when a loved one dies and a void needs to be filled. But (and I'm not giving anything away, as this is revealed early on) Michael in fact survived the crash and is brought to an Afghani prison camp, forced to make a drastic decision and promptly saved from death twice, eventually returning home with the British army.
Michael comes home to find his shelves replaced by Jannek's hand-made cabinets, children that look at him in fear, and a wife who suspects change. Bier studies Michael's reaction and change as a result of war and the effects this has on the emotional bonds he'd constructed before leaving for Afghanistan. Her observant style as director captures the nuance in every hug or conversation. Notice how the camera often closes in on a set of teary eyes or the way two people look at each other post-conversation. Bier proves to be a strong director in not only making every glance or set of dialogue poignant and necessary, but also by eliciting strong performances from her actors to fulfill what strengths she brings to the project.
Strongest in the cast is Lie Kaas, who I've not seen before. He brings an unexpected dimension to Jannek. When he's shown as a former criminal and drunk Lie Kaas manages to capture Jannek's hidden vulnerability and emotional need, suggesting that there is good in him waiting to manifest; thus, the audience connects and is not alienated in the slightest. Lie Kaas also makes Jannek's change from distant to welcoming and warm seem natural, not forced or contrived. When Michael returns and supposes Jannek and Sarah slept together, observe the look of shock and worry on his face. This is fine acting, and in this moment Lie Kaas establishes an additional complexity and mystery in Jannek.
Nielson is strong, true, and graceful, inhabiting Sarah with utmost maturity. Her performance is nomination-worthy, and her perceptive approach to the "frightened wife of scarred soldier" is not just luminous but unique. Thomsen is also breathtaking, bringing control to Michael's most intense moments post-alleged death.
Some say the film is ultimately worthless, bringing nothing new to the table in its look at war's devastating effects on family life. Contrary to this opinion, Bier's masterly direction makes the film more about the characters than anything timely or political. I've seen "Brothers" compared to Michael Cimino's home-from-war drama "The Deer Hunter," but it is a significantly better film. What Cimino brought to "Deer Hunter" was a naive view of the relationship of five men, resulting in a manipulative melodrama saved only by the pure talent of Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken. Everything in his film seemed to obviously aspire to greatness, like a little boy wearing his father's best suit. "Brothers" is not young, but mature and well-modulated. Its focus and balance are naturally captivating; unlike "Deer Hunter," it has no need to proclaim its greatness. Bier makes her characters deeply involving, her story not manipulative but genuinely effective. What's most amazing, though, is that it is important not because it's programmed to be, but because its characters are so human and the situations so effortlessly devastating that there is no need to push: we connect, feel, and then walk away hoping for change."
The rippling effects of war
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 11/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
The Danish film, "Brothers," offers a powerful reminder that the dehumanizing effects of war often extend far beyond the confines of the battlefield.
In this tale of two siblings who couldn`t be more different, Michael is the "good" son, a solid family man with a wife and two daughters and a very strong sense of moral rectitude. Jannik is the "bad" son, a ne'er-do-well drifter who is routinely in trouble with the law and who, as the movie opens, has just been released from prison for seriously injuring a woman in a botched robbery attempt. When Michael is shipped to Afghanistan as part of a U.N. fighting force, he is quickly shot down and taken prisoner by the Taliban militia. Believing him to be dead, the military mistakenly informs Michael's family that he has been killed in action. Jannik is so devastated by the loss of his brother that he vows to help Sarah raise her two daughters. Against their better judgment, Jannik and Sarah begin to develop romantic feelings for one another, a situation that leads to great complications after Michael is eventually freed from his captivity and he attempts to pick up where he left off back home. Unfortunately, Michael's return to normalcy is further complicated by the memory of a heinous act he was "forced" to commit against one of his fellow soldiers while in the camp. Before long, Michael is taking out his anger, guilt and frustration on his own terrified family, and in a sudden role reversal, it is Jannik who must now come to the aid of the brother who had always been there for him when he needed him most. In many ways, this is a story about two brothers who both find redemption for sins of the past.
Although the love triangle aspect could easily have relegated "Brothers" to the realm of soap opera, the movie manages to avoid that fate, thanks partly to the restrained way in which the script deals with the subject matter and partly to the sense of reality that permeates the film. These are all fully fleshed-out human beings trying to cope with events far beyond their control - be they the brutalizing psychological effects of a war in a foreign land or the more familiar entanglements and complexities in all things related to the human heart. No one is made out to be the "hero" or the "villain," which belies the wisdom of labeling people in such simplistic terms to begin with (as the boys` father clearly does, having long ago declared Michael to be his one "true" son and all but disowning the troublesome Jannik). The film is filled with haunting, memorable moments that touch us at a deep level, as we see a decent man being driven to madness by a single gruesome action in his life, as well as the devastating ripple effect it has on those he loves.
The actors - Ulrich Thomsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and the exquisite Connie Nielsen - truly make us care about the characters they are playing, and the final scene of confession and redemption is haunting in its subtlety and simplicity.
As one of the first films willing to acknowledge, let alone explore, the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the small-scaled but memorable "Brothers," written by Anders Thomas Jensen and co-written and directed by Susanne Bier, earns a place in movie history."