Thoughts Before Apparently Tobey Maquire and Jake Gyllenhaal have lived a life of mistaken identities, according to an interview I read in a preview for this movie. Personally I don t see the striking resemblance the two have and can t see myself shout

Thoughts Before

Apparently Tobey Maquire and Jake Gyllenhaal have lived a life of mistaken identities, according to an interview I read in a preview for this movie.

Personally I don't see the 'striking' resemblance the two have and can't see myself shouting 'Tobey!' to Donnie Darko actor Gyllenhaal any time soon (not that I'll be around either one any time soon, but that's besides the point).

But anyway, apparently Brothers exists because of this resemblance. And the brilliant trio of Gyllenhaal, Maquire and Portman should prove one of two things: a good cast can provide the boost an average movie needs to become great or a good cast can't save an average movie from mediocrity.

Why this presumption that the raw bones of it will be average?

Well sadly Brothers has something against it before I even walk into the cinema - the gives-too-much-away trailer (and sadly it may be too late for you too, if the trailer for this has been stitched to the top of this page).

So before I even walk in I know a good portion of what it going to happen, which lives little surprise and excitement. I assume 'average' because what could have been above that has been dashed by expectancy.

There may be more to it, but I get increasingly frustrated when marketers fail to learn that the consumer, the oh-so-loyal film lover(!), hates seeing all the best bits in the trailer.

Thoughts Afterwards

I struggled to get through Brothers, a tale that was mostly told in the trailer. This is as predictable as they come, even without the spoilers in the promotional trail, and its slow progression to the credits nearly bored me to tears.

As you probably know, we follow two brothers. The father's favourite Sam (Maquire) is a brave American soldier, due to go serve a term in Afghanistan. This impending service proves difficult for his wife Grace (Portman) and their children, and they face up to life without a father and husband for a few months. The weight of stress increases as Sam picks his brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal) up from jail, a battered-by-life character who seems to have gone to as much effort to be the opposite of his brother.

Sam leaves overseas and it's an adjustment to life for the family, and its attempted rehabilitation for Tommy and an attempt to connect with the only family he has. He starts, in his flawed way, by doing up Grace's kitchen. It's there where new connections are forged in this new dynamic; where relationships are strained by war, by hurt and by love...

Sounds riveting? Don't take positive vibes from this drab ITV-type anti-war drama. We follow, in parts, Sam around his duties and the horrible things he encounters - and there's literally zero interaction or feel for the title's apparent brotherly relationship that should be the focal point of the film.

So instead of a tense thriller about the dizzying complications of two psychologically damaged brothers, as this movie should have been, it turns (for most of the film) into two separate beasts - a boring family drama and a boring war drama.

There's some solid acting from Tobey Maquire, as I expected, and a certain scene at a dinner table was especially profound - Spiderman can act! Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhall's performances were 'ok', nothing stand-out and probably as solid as the rather weakly written characters could be.

The emotional torment of soldiers is an often forgotten aspect of wartime military services, and I respect Brothers for treating this subject with the respect it deserves. I've read that Maquire's performance is true to real-life experiences of ex-soldiers and maybe my lack of knowledge in this field draws me away from hidden depths in the films main subplot.

I don't know if there's more to be said about a movie that by the time the credits had rolled all emotional resonance had disappeared. It's messages far from poignant, it's conclusion not cliché but hardly memorable either.

My point about spoiler-filled trailers is cemented with Brothers though. Much of my boredom was because I'd already seen snippets of key scenes, in fact the trailer made it seem terribly more exciting than it actually is!

As a cinema movie this is definitely one to avoid. Visually spectacular cinematography is spread thin and a good portion of the movie is in a boring generic American-movie style house (with grim lighting throughout). Even as a DVD this is barely worth it.

Perhaps this will be nice as a late night TV film in the future, when you can switch off at the boring bits and have a choice of turning over without wasting any money at all.

The cast had some much potential but failed to live up to a promising premise. This is partly down to the marketing team, as I've said, but it's also down to a feature that doesn't reach for greatness and forsakes nearly all emotional ties through bland settings and forgettable character development.

A bold statement of a forgotten issue but ultimately one that leaves little mark on the viewer.

TIM LINCE

2/5 STARS