The Sisters Brothers Reviews
On the surface, The Sisters Brothers is a Revisionist Western with a gritty Spaghetti aesthetic focusing on a group of anti-heroes, but it's also a tale of avarice, a chase movie, a dark comedy, a tragic fable, a look at the modernisation of the Old West, a study of competing types of masculinity, and even a political thesis. The English language debut of director Jacques Audiard, who adapted the script with his regular writing partner Thomas Bidegain from Patrick deWitt's 2011 novel of the same name, unfortunately, it did little for me. I wouldn't say it's a bad movie, as it clearly has a lot going for it. However, its episodic rhythm, bifurcated narrative structure, and poorly-defined morality left me unengaged, frustrated, and rather bored.
Set in 1851, the film tells the story of Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) and his older brother Eli (John C. Reilly), hired guns looking for Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), a mild-manner chemist who has created an elixir that when poured into a river, will illuminate any gold deposits on the river bed. Following tracker John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is to detain Warm until the brothers catch up, the mission proves to be a lot more than they bargained for.
Highly revisionist, The Sisters Brothers gives us all the genre's tropes, but from unexpected angles; men ride horses, but when a horse is mortally wounded, the man to whom he belongs cries and apologises; whisky is drunk aplenty, but one character would rather sit alone thinking about home; the anticipated climatic shootout plays out in a manner you'll never see coming. Yes, this is the Old West of Sergio Leone, but Audiard defamiliarises it as much as possible. Men ride horses, but when a horse is mortally wounded, the man to whom he belongs cries and apologises; whisky is drunk aplenty, but one character would rather sit alone thinking about home; the anticipated climatic shootout plays out in a manner you'll never see coming.
However, Audiard is not naive enough to suggest that the Old West was peaceful. But even here, he subverts genre, using a recurring motif of either Charlie or Eli shooting an already downed opponent pleading for his life, which is not what we're used to from the protagonists of Hollywood westerns.
In terms of acting, Phoenix, Gyllenhaal, and Ahmed all have moments to shine, but this is Reilly's film. His nuanced performance allows us to see that Eli's conscience is beginning to affect him, causing him to drift away from the increasingly amoral Charlie. His unexpected affection for his horse is especially poignant, and his tendency to sniff a shawl given to him by his girlfriend is beautifully played.
However, for all this, I disliked the film. I found it far too episodic, lurching from one incident to next with little connective tissue. I also didn't particularly like the shifts in focus from the brothers to Morris and Warm, making it impossible for either to fully settle. A knock-on from this is that it's difficult to figure out where one's empathy is supposed to lie. This becomes especially problematic in relation to the morally questionable dï¿ 1/2 (C)nouement, which seems designed for the audience to roundly condemn one of the main characters, only for the film to then give us a 15-minute epilogue designed to redeem him. This throws into relief what for me was the most egregious problem - none of what we see seems to mean anything, there are virtually no consequences for anything the brothers do (although plenty of consequences for others). This left me scratching my head as to what the film is trying to say.
As a kind of an aside, it's also worth mentioning an aesthetic decision that has me baffled. On occasion, the film is shot within a circular frame (think of how films often simulate POV through a telescope), often combined with racked focus and unsteady photography. I'm assuming the idea is to try to replicate the style of a Kinetograph, but given that device wouldn't be invented for another four decades, I'm not entirely sure what the point is. An especially strange example is a scene in which Charlie speaks direct-to-camera, the only example of such in the whole film. Is this a break in the fourth wall, and if so, why?
The four performances at the heart of The Sisters Brothers earn it a great deal of leeway. But even taking that into account, I couldn't get into it. Far too plodding and thematically unfocused, it's original in how it approaches generic tropes, but the poorly constructed episodic narrative saps away the good will built up by the acting. Is it a western? A comedy? A tragedy? An esoteric political piece? A realist depiction of greed trumping idealism? In the end, it doesn't seem to know itself, trying to be many things, and ending up being none of them.
This gem of a film, so well written, directed and performed never made money, but why? Based on the superb novel by Patrick De Witt, it is a marvellous western starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as the brothers, hitmen for the Commodore (Rutger Hauer). They are after a chemist who can find gold by adding chemicals to the water. Much that follows is funny, unexpected, moving and profound.
The French co-writer and director Jacques Audiard does a marvellous job. It is like a Coen Brothers movie without the absurdity and slapstick. It is beautifully shot, and though long, never has an extra frame - it is nearly perfect.
So if you like your storytelling adult, a bit obtuse and wonderfully delivered, I would recommend TSB. It is not a Marvel movie, but it is marvellous.. See it.
I read the brief description of the movie and was very much looking forward to seeing this, having especially liked Rust and Bone. Unfortunately, nothing about the movie interested me, and I actually walked out at the 1 hour mark.
I can't remember the last time I walked out of a movie. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for watching anything today. But I simply found nothing likable in the first hour, and I saw no story or plot developing that I could be interested in. I found the acting dull and flat, and the dialog trivial. While I couldn't quite place which other movies I'd seen them in, several of the scenes felt familiar - somehow Brokeback Mountain and Dances with Wolves comes to mind.
Perhaps I have missed getting to the part where it all ties together and makes for a satisfying viewing experience - but today I ran out of patience.
In good and ill.
Not much flashiness or stunning this or that. Life is hard and if you are lucky you still have some family.
Two brothers, with last name "Sisters" are assassing they're way trough the 1850s. They are quite the duo and connects with a gold prospector named John Morris. It start's of pretty weak and flat for me and it never really interests me until an hour or so - that's when the story really starts for me.
I dig the scene where they search for gold in the little pond and the rest of the film after that part is pretty sweet. I never paid enough attention to it, to be honest, but the film must take a huge part of that matter. It's OK, with both nice visual features and an OK story.
It's like a western with a humorous take at times, but it's also pretty ugly and raw in other moments. The mixing is not the best for me so I guess I found this piece pretty mediocre.
5.5 out of 10 shawls.