enjoyment of BROTHERS’ score will depend on how familiar and
friendly you are toward Thomas Newman’s recognizable style, because
he is well within his comfort zone here."
A Troubled Family Review by Marius Masalar
Normally, we expect film re-makes to emerge a significant amount of time
after their progenitors do, but not so with BROTHERS, Jim Sheridan’s
recent revival of the 2004 Danish film BRØDRE. As the title suggests, the
action is largely centred around two siblings, Sam (Tobey Maguire) and
Tommy Cahill (Jake Gyllenhaal), and their lives over the weeks surrounding
Tommy’s release from prison and Sam’s military duty in Afghanistan.
What may not be apparent from the onset is that this is far more than a
family melodrama. The film’s all-American setting throws into sharp relief
the impact of the current war on the families of the soldiers, and the
cast’s heartfelt performances elevate the production to a poignant social
critique. Tobey Maguire certainly earned his Golden Globe nomination.
Underscoring this effort is a master of emotional music: THOMAS NEWMAN.
The talented composer (unlucky and underappreciated perhaps for being
among the only composers whom the Academy seems to be allergic to)
provides the film with an understated but undeniably beautiful score, with
a consistent tone, a memorable theme, and the same pristine orchestration
for which he is known.
“Homecoming” (1) is a marvelous opening, with the main theme prominently
on display on the guitar. Subtle synth and percussion effects carry on
unobtrusively underneath, somehow providing a sense of progression what
would otherwise be a repetitive and uninteresting track. “Bad News” (2)
moves on directly into a more upbeat pace, while maintaining the slightly
mournful tone of the opening. Newman addresses the prison-released
character of Tommy with “Uncle Tommy” (3), a rocking track that presently
fades into a more atmospheric middle before finishing back where it
The mood darkens noticeably and predictably with the track “Afghanistan”
(4). It’s impressive to see how unsettling Newman can make this piece
without resorting to crazy dissonances. Some Middle-Eastern instruments
chime in for authenticity, and then promptly vanish again to make room for
more eerie ambience and an edgier guitar by the time the album reaches its
6th track, “Sold”.
As the film comes back to Sam’s wife, who slowly warms to her
brother-in-law Tommy, the film’s score takes a lighter turn with “Ice
Skating” (7). “Not Another Word” (8) keeps the positive feelings from
lasting, segueing smoothly into another rendition of the main theme.
“Brothers (Main Title)” (9) is in fact very similar in presentation to the
opening track — almost a direct reprise — with only a few cosmetic
differences in the background elements to differentiate it.
Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, “No Value” (10), and “The Pipe” (11) are a
powerful and restrained treatment of some of the film’s most disturbing
scenes. The mood is all over the place toward the end: from the darkness
of those two tracks to the frivolity of “Snowman” (12) and peacefulness of
“Night Graves” (13). In “War Hero” (14), Newman gives us one last dose of
outright depression before launching into the finale, “What Happened?”
(15) which is among the more passionate, nostalgic, and heartfelt moments
in the composer’s career.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of BROTHERS’ score will depend on how familiar
and friendly you are toward THOMAS NEWMAN’s recognizable style, because he
is well within his comfort zone here. Regardless, the music is sad,
beautiful and, in the case of the main theme, quite memorable. There’s not
a lot of variation or development of the theme, sadly, and many of the
more ambient tracks pass by unnoticed, but the level of detail and craft
in the music is always there for those who are willing to listen for it.
In the end, it’s hard to imagine a more suitable composer for such a film,
and we can only hope that the Academy Awards discover Benadryl.