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Brothers

Director: Susanne Bier

Denmark| 2004. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 110 min.


Set against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, Susanne Bier’s intense and emotionally devastating Brothers examines the relationship between Jannick (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), an alcoholic ne’er-do-well just released from prison, and his brother Michael (Ulrich Thomsen), a career soldier who’s as solid a family man as they come. Michael, his wife Sarah (Connie Nielsen) and their daughters live a virtually idyllic life in a large house they’re forever restoring. The only problem is that Michael is being shipped out to Afghanistan as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission. When the helicopter carrying Michael is shot down and he’s presumed dead, Jannick is forced to grow up and help out his sister-in-law. Gradually, Jannick and Sarah grow closer, but things are complicated by their loyalties to Michael. When Michael returns from the war after several months of hellish imprisonment, he’s a broken and embittered man. Tormented by what he did to survive and unable to confide in anyone, Michael becomes increasingly paranoid. Bier is aided by a finely tuned script by Anders Thomas Jensen and a phenomenal cast, including two of Denmark’s most talented male leads and international star Nielsen (Gladiator), appearing in her first Danish-language feature.
Her performance is astonishingly naked. Like her earlier film Open Hearts, Brothers is driven by Bier’s precise attention to emotional details. The film is dominated by mercilessly tight close-ups, a perfect visual corollary for the increasing intimacy between Sarah and Jannick and Michael’s beleaguered frame of mind. Few directors could handle the scope of Brothers. Fewer still could handle it with such subtlety and confidence.

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