Posted on 10/20/12 06:04 PM
first of all, this picture is a kind of so-so, it blurs the line between serious drama and soap opera, some of the solutions are working well, some of them ain't. the director was known for his masterful story-telling in his earlier movies (the boxer, my left foot, in the name of the father), but recently he made some crap movies (get rich or die trying, dream house). maybe he can function best in one and only one paradigm, and this movie just partially crosses its ways with sheridan's irish catholic paradigm. the crucial point of this movie is guilt and change, as a sort of redemtion.
this movie is a remake, not a carbon copy, but close enogh to it, of a danish more artistic picture brodre. we have a good brother, his wife and a bad brother as main characters and whole family and community as supporting ones. a good brother goes to afganistan for his turn, goes missing and is presumed dead. his bad brother tries to kinda step in his shoes, to take care of his brother's family and change his ways so he can become a better man. the wife tries to stay a good person by doubling her love to the children. but the good brother comes as a changed man, suffering from PTSD...
some of the moves are good and classy, sam shepards little bravado is a touch of class, jake gyllenhaal is good as fresh-out-of-the-prison man who wants to change his ways. natalie portman does a decent job as a decent, simple military wife. tobey maguirre is just not that big actor as his role is demanding, but still it doesn't go to miscast. the ending plays out too simply, without much needed complexity, but still it is the price of hollywoodisation of an european movie. the rest of transition is done without much fuss, the less experienced viewer won't see it's a remake. the edgy melodramatic moments will spoil the feeling of watching this work.
but there is more to it, there is whole lot of context. first, it is a rarity nowdays to make a decent movie on some complex premises. it is a brave thing to do, from the economic point of view: most of the movies play safe with siplicity. it's not particularly brave from the political point of view in the time when every politician everywhere is changing their position more often than changing socks.
in this movie war and PTSD segments are secondary to guilt and redemption, and change of ways as the main topic. guilt and redemption is a standard motive from the bible, seen in literature and movies. this time it works just to a point, because it's not the only focus. it works with tommy and barely works with sam. the main reason for it is playing safe and not daring too much to get into the PTSD segment. maybe because maguirre's acting is not good enough to pass the shell-shocked phase of an army veteran to a more complex work, maybe because of the lack of screen time, maybe because of not-so-good ballance of segments. war segment is done kinda oldschool, reminding me of vietnam war movies, sam's captivity is done with a special touch of brutality, like in the deer hunter.
in a conclusion, watch it with the hurt locker aftertaste, because these two are kinda complementary. someone said on my hurt locker review that the hurt locker is a rare movie that can connect us with war veterans of our (younger) generation. this movie can do the same thing, and more movies like that will come in the future. it's simple - the first serious movies about vietnam war came five years after the war was over, the first movies dealing with the veterans came a couple of years earlier, but still. don't forget that wars in afganistan and iraq are not quite over yet. with more of the historical distance, there will be even better movies.