Follow TV Tropes


Film / Brothers (2009)

Go To

Brothers is a 2009 psychological war thriller directed by Jim Sheridan. It is a remake of Susanne Bier's Danish film Brødre from 2004.

When his helicopter goes down during his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan, Marine Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) is presumed dead. Back home, brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) steps in to look over Sam’s wife, Grace (Natalie Portman), and two children. Sam’s surprise homecoming triggers domestic mayhem.

Tobey Maguire received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama for his performance.

Not to be confused with the 1984 sitcom of the same name, nor with the sequel to Marathon Man.


Brothers contains examples of:

  • Berserker Tears:
    • Sam is clearly in deep anguish as he thrashes the kitchen.
    • When Isabelle brutally chastises his father, you could see the tears in her eyes.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Inverted. Tommy is the most concerned for Sam's emotional state, as he tries his best to comfort him and even defends him from the cops who arrive at the house.
  • Big Sister Bully: Isabelle becomes this to Maggie during the latter's birthday party, in which she rudely takes her gifts, making Sam angry.
  • Big Little Brother: Tommy is around four inches taller than his older brother Sam.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sam finally decides to go get mental help after suffering a mental breakdown over thinking Grace and Tommy were together, but on the downside Grace and the family now have to struggle with Sam's PTSD as a result.
  • Advertisement:
  • Black Sheep: Tommy is this in the start due to being a drunken wreck. When he sobers up, however, this position goes to Sam due to his antisocial behavior brought on by the war.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Played for Drama. Isabelle's brattiness towards her father at the birthday party instigates the latter's Unstoppable Rage.
  • Break the Cutie: Sam becomes an emotional wreck as soon as he returns home, culminating in going on an Unstoppable Rage after thinking Grace cheated on him with Tommy.
  • Broken Tears: Sam has these when he kills Joe in front of the Afghans.
    Sam: THERE!!!
  • Calling the Old Man Out: After finding out he's alive, Isabelle is upset about Sam letting himself get captured and not showing up at her birthday party, and she yells at him at Maggie's birthday party. A rare example of this trope being completely unjustified.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Sam doesn't want to tell anyone that he killed Joe.
  • Children Are Innocent: Maggie.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Sam's entire Heroic BSoD towards Grace when he comes back home and believes that she is having an affair with Tommy.
    Grace: Sam, please. There are girls, please.
    Sam: YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU?! YOU WHAT I... CHRIST! YOU WHAT I CAN FUCKING..- YOU WHAT I CAN DO WITH THESE FUCKING HANDS! GRACE! YOU FUCK! (repeatedly slaps his face with his hands) (breaks various things across the kitchen room) CHRIST, FUCK!
  • Daddy's Girl: Maggie has a hard time dealing with Sam's death at first.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Sam mistakenly believes Grace started a relationship with Tommy while he was in Afghanistan and presumed dead. Though they did kiss, they didn't proceed out of respect for him.
    • Isabelle gets angry at her father for favoring Maggie and tells him he should have stayed dead, oblivious to fact he went through massive trauma and suffering (including killing his second-in-command) to survive and return to her.
  • Driven to Suicide: Subverted. Sam looks like he's going to shoot himself when the cops arrive, but then changes his mind.
  • Family Man: Played with. Sam was initially the well-respected one to his family, but this changes after he returns to America as a mental wreck.
  • A Father to His Men: Sam is distraught when his captors force him to kill Joe.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
    • Sam and Tommy, although after Sam returns from combat, the roles switch.
    • Subverted for Maggie and Isabelle. Maggie can't be classified as "foolish," since she's only 5, and Isabelle certainly isn't responsible, as her ugly behavior causes her father to have a huge breakdown.
  • Heroic BSoD: Sam suffers from one when he thinks that Grace is having an affair with his brother Tommy.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Deconstructed. Sam kills Joe to save himself from the Afghans and return home, but his severe regret over this makes him unstable.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Sam does this as he wrecks the kitchen.
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Played with. Isabelle says this to her father for favoring her younger sister. By the look of her face upstairs during his outburst, it's clear Isabelle will hold guilt for this act for the rest of her life.
  • Jerkass:
  • Karma Houdini: Downplayed. Though Isabelle doesn't get any punishment for driving her father to a nervous breakdown and attempting suicide, she's just as affected by her father's return as the rest of her family.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Even after Joe gives them the message they want, the Afghans force Sam to beat him to death anyway.
    • Isabelle blatantly telling her father that she wished he "stayed dead," and that her mother would rather "sleep with Uncle Tommy." This is especially heartbreaking since he practically went through hell and back just to come back to her and her sister.
  • Large Ham: Sam sure knows how to ham it up when he smashes things believing that his wife Grace is cheating with Tommy. Tobey Maguire even considered this performance exhausting.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Sam believes Grace and Tommy had a sexual relationship in his absence. Grace and Tommy did share a kiss, but immediately regretted it.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Sam feels deeply remorseful for killing Joe in Afghanistan, thus he refuses to tell anyone about this.
    • Implied with Isabelle. She nervously looks down at her father's violent outburst, possibly out of guilt for lashing out at him at the party.
  • Nervous Wreck: Once he returns to America, Sam becomes this. It only gets worse from there.
  • Never Found the Body: News comes that Sam's helicopter has crashed over the water, killing all the marines aboard. In reality, the Afghans have taken him and a hometown friend, Private Joe Willis, a prisoner in a mountain village. Only Sam makes it, though.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Sam reluctantly gives one to Joe with a metal pipe in order to escape from his captors, killing him.
  • No Indoor Voice: During his breakdown, Sam shouts at the top of his lungs.
  • Not Himself: Grace wonders why Sam has been acting timid since he got back from Afghanistan.
  • The Paranoiac: Sam starts to become one after the incident. He even pulls a gun out of his back pocket when a faint noise is heard outside. He eventually gets better, however.
  • Parental Favoritism: Despite their love for Isabelle, Sam and Grace gave Maggie more attention than her. Lampshaded by Isabelle.
  • Parental Neglect: Sam starts to distance himself from his kids due to his PTSD. His kids start resenting him for it, especially Isabelle, who spells it out to him in the harshest way possible.
  • Parental Substitute: Tommy becomes this to Isabelle and Maggie while Sam is away in Afghanistan. Isabelle starts to prefer him over Sam when the latter returns.
  • P.O.W. Camp: For the first half of the film, the scenes involving Sam.
  • Rage-Breaking Point: Throughout the movie, Sam gradually becomes angry as he learns it the hard way how his family moved on without him, despite all the hellish experience in Afghanistan he kept his family from knowing. His bitterness toward Tommy who he believes cheated with his wife (they did share a kiss, but didn't actually go with it) doesn't help, but it's when his daughter, Isabelle, harshly chides him for favoring her younger sister that the whole situation finally pushes him over the edge, sparking his Unstoppable Rage in the climax.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Subverted. Tommy and Grace attempt to begin a relationship while Sam is presumed dead, but don’t go through with it primarily because Tommy serving as one proves to be too awkward. Sam’s belief that Tommy has replaced him drives much of the plot.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Joe. The Afghan soldiers force Sam to kill him as they say if he doesn't die, Sam will.
  • Sadistic Choice: The Afghans tell Sam either he beats Joe to death with a pipe or they shoot him in the head then shoot Joe. He chooses the former when he hears from their translator that Sam has a family to reunite with.
  • Sanity Slippage: Sam is clearly in a poor mental state by the time he returns from Afghanistan, but his paranoia over Grace's alleged affair with Tommy only exacerbates this to the point he completely loses it near the end of the film.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Sam returns from his tour of duty in Afghanistan and suffers immensely from PTSD when he tries to have a normal life back home.
  • Swapped Roles: Sam, the upright Army officer, is the responsible sibling to Tommy's drunken screw-up. However, Tommy starts straightening out his life, while Sam comes back from combat riddled with PTSD and unable to function.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Sam gets captured by the Afghans alongside his friend and then is forced to kill said friend to get back home and return to his family. Once he does make it back home, he becomes anxious over Grace supposedly having an affair with his brother and then gets callously insulted by his resentful daughter, in which he finally loses his marbles.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Happens to Sam when he thinks Grace had an affair with his brother. He proceeds to brutally thrash the kitchen in the process.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Isabelle's callous remarks towards her father at the party lead to the latter's notorious breakdown.
  • Used to Be More Social: After coming home from Afghanistan, Sam starts to distance himself from his loved ones, getting them all concerned and upset.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Though not a hero per se, Isabelle does get called out by Grace for her nasty behavior at the birthday dinner.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Downplayed. Isabelle is about eight and later about nine, but apparently knows what sex is. Despite this, she lacks the maturity and emotional intelligence to recognize that telling her PTSD-addled father "he should have stayed dead" is incredibly cruel.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: After Joe cracks and gives them the video message they want note , the Afghans force Sam, at gunpoint, to beat Joe to death with a pipe.

Alternative Title(s): Brothers