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The One-Line Summary: After U.S. Marine Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), thought shot down and killed in action over Afghanistan, comes home after being rescued from behind held as a prisoner, he is haunted by his horrific treatment and finds returning to normality impossible, especially when he learns his ex-con brother has taken to caring for his beautiful wife and two daughters.
The Two-Line Blurb: Based on the 2004 Danish film Brødre, the film centers on the post-traumatic stress that cripples Cahill after committing terrifying acts of inhumanity that, while were necessary for survival, forever scar him. These scenes, while not easy to watch, are the strongest in a film that feels a little too produced, too manipulative and clean, lacking a rawness that would have served it better, despite the grande efforts by the cast at keeping it dark.
The Three-Line Set-up: Sam has spent an interminable amount time in a mountain camp as a war prisoner with his hometown friend, and fellow helicopter survivor, Private Joe Willis (Patrick John Flueger). They are forced to make videos condemning the U.S. military intervention though when Joe is deemed useless to the captors, Sam is given an unconscionable choice that thoroughly breaks him. Meanwhile, back at home, Sam’s brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) wants to redeem his old ways and attempts to offer help around the house for Sam’s wife Grace (Natalie Portman), and an emotional relationship blossoms.
The Four-Line Moment: Sitting in the dark with a crowbar, Sam is tormented by both Joe’s fate in Afghanistan and the firm belief the Grace has cheated on him with Tommy in his own house. He takes his anger out on the newly renovated kitchen that Tommy built, smashing cupboards and counters with the crowbar while screaming about the horrors he went through to get back to Grace. When Tommy comes in, there is a frightful moment where a repeat of what Sam did as a prisoner might actually happen, but Tommy manages to get close and even embrace his embattled brother. It’s a gripping moment, hindered only by the odd inauthenticity of it, as the destruction really feels scripted though Maguire is riveting.
The Five-Word Review: It tries way too hard.