Film-Forward Review: [BROTHERS]

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Connie Nielsen as Sarah
Photo: IFC

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BROTHERS
Directed by: Susanne Bier.
Produced by: Sisse Graum Jørgensen & Peter Aalbæk Jensen.
Written by: Susanne Bier & Anders Thomas Jensen.
Director of Photography: Morten Søborg.
Edited by: Pernille Bech Christensen.
Music by: Johan Söderqvist.
Released by: IFC.
Language: Danish with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: Denmark. 113 min. Rated: R.
With: Connie Nielsen, Ulrich Thomsen & Nikolaj Lie Kaas.

Michael (Ulrich Thomsen), a Danish commanding officer, informs his troops they'll be leaving Danish soil at midnight for a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. He reassures the startled men, who receive the news while showering, they won't encounter anything they haven't trained for. Next, he picks up his younger brother Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), newly released from prison after serving time for assault and robbery. Dinner that night is both an awkward and tense family reunion, with Jannik aloof and simmering with anger, and a farewell dinner for Michael. Privately, he says goodbye to his family and asks his brother to look after his wife Sarah (a radiant Connie Nielsen) and his two young daughters. Director Susanne Bier effectively sets up the impending contrast between gray Denmark and mountainous Central Asia by intercutting Sarah's insular middle-class routine with Michael's journey into the unknown. While aware that Michael's life could be endangered, Sarah doesn't sense anything has gone wrong until she receives the news that Michael's helicopter has been shot down soon after his arrival.

Just when Brothers seems to follow the predictable pattern of secrets and betrayal, Bier both holds back and veers in a different direction. In the first half of the film, the characters appear to be rigidly set, until Bier throws in a twist, which dramatically changes the filmís somber tone. As a result, this intimate drama builds towards a suspenseful climax. Brothers has a momentum and emotional impact that Bierís previous film, Open Hearts, lacked. The acting and well-written script convey a strong sense of realism, and in Sarah and Michael's two daughters, Bier successfully captures the precocious playfulness and mean-spirited self-centeredness of childhood. This is perhaps the most moving and eloquent film of life on the home front since Coming Home. Kent Turner
May 6, 2005

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