Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2009: Tobey Maguire in Brothers

Tobey Maguire did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Captain Sam Cahill.

Brothers has a certain effectiveness at times but overall it never quite comes together in it's story about two brothers one who is a soldier who is thought to have died in Afghanistan, and the other a perpetual screw up who finds some responsibility at his apparent death.

Maguire plays the "good" brother and Jake Gyllenhaal plays the "bad" brother Tommy. That is technically good casting in that they can be taken as brothers as they both fit a similar type and it is no surprise to learn that Gyllenhaal was considered to replace Maguire as Spider-Man when it was in question whether or not he would reprise the role in Spider-Man two. The comparison between the two is problematic in that I would not hesitate in saying Gyllenhaal is simply the much more talented Maguire as Maguire has a tendency for a blandness in his performances. This blandness is not avoided here either even though this ends up being a very emotionally charged role. The beginning of the film though is just setting up the family dynamic with showing Sam as a devoted soldier but also a man who is very loving toward his children and his wife (Natalie Portman).

Maguire sorta fails in both of the points early on. He just never really seems like a man who was ever a soldier here and he does not do anything to really suggest anything about Sam early on. He's very paint by numbers just kinda going through the motions of any scene. He does not show really a command you might expect from a respected Captain like he probably should. He also does not strike up enough chemistry with either Portman or the two child actors playing his daughter. Also he does not really strike anything notable with Gyllenhaal, in fact it does not seem like he really is trying all that hard in that case whereas Gyllenhaal really is trying to bring something between the brothers. Unfortunately there is not anything that comes from Gyllenhaal's effort because Maguire does not reciprocate, and despite being called Brothers Maguire and Gyllenhaal don't share that many scenes together.

Everything changes though once Sam goes off to Afghanistan and his helicopter is shot down, but he survives although he is captured by enemy forces. They take him and a fellow soldier and proceed to torture them to elicit "confessions". Maguire in these scenes isn't terrible in that I do think there are glimpses of expressing the severity of the situation and the change in Sam's mental state. Maguire never pulls the emotions together enough to make these scenes truly harrowing. There is still an inadequacy at times as he does not bridge the transformation from one to another well enough. There are moments where he seems to have it in portraying Sam's descent, but then others he seems lost in the scene. This is especially true for the pivotal scene where his captors force him to kill subordinate. Maguire does not build the moment instead going to some standard yelling and just undercuts what should be an essential character moment.

Sam comes back and is obviously a bit off as he no longer seems the same man, and is clearly suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome. Maguire actually has one really strong scene where Sam accuses Tommy of sleeping with his wife. Maguire is very effective in showing the unsettled nature of Sam and just the cold nervousness of the man. Maguire in that scene realizes the state of Sam rather powerfully, unfortunately this is not the case for the rest of the scenes. Maguire just seems to go on a blank stare autopilot that fails to bring his conflict to the forefront. He stays this way until an extreme breakdown that occurs. It's a loud scene and really it comes off as much more of him acting loudly rather than bringing the natural breakdown. One reason is he did not build to this well enough, other than that one scene with Gyllenhaal, but as well it is just insufficiently acted in a base sense. Although the ending is particularly weak this isn't a terrible performance as there are moments where Maguire finds the character, but those moments are the exceptions.


Matt Mustin said...

Yeah, I agree, he's pretty unimpressive. What did you think of Gyllenhaal and Portman?

Kevin said...

I liked him slightly more. I will probably give him a 3 or 3.5, and I thought Gyllenhaal was great as usual.

Speaking of Gyllenhaal, you should check out Source Code, which is directed by the director of Moon.

Kevin said...

Lastly, what would be your ratings and thoughts on Ben Affleck in Argo, Karl Urban in Dredd and the cast of The Town?

luke higham said...

Louis: Ratings & Throughts for Gyllenhaal.

Anonymous said...

Louis, what ae your thoughts on Domhnall Gleeson? From what I've watched of him so far, he seems to take after his father in the talent department

Anonymous said...

Thoughts/ratings on:

John Goodman, F Murray Abraham, Stark Sands and Garret Hedlund in Inside Llewyn Davis

Daniel Radcliffe and Jack Huston in Kill Your Darlings

moviefilm said...

Thanks for the review. It ended just as expected... :)

mrripley said...

I loved Sam Shepard in this,what did you think of him,Maguire was way to ott in his big scenes and u r correct i never ever believed him as a soldier,i appreciated Jakes soulfulness more.

Anonymous said...

Louis , What areyour ratings and Thoughts on the Top Gun cast?

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: Gyllenhaal was very solid as usual even though his role was technically simpler, I have a feeling he would have been great in Maguire's role. Obviously the best solution for the film would have to made the characters twins and have him play both.

I really don't care much for Portman as an actress, and here she could have been worse, but I never thought she did much with the character.


Affleck - 3.5(Yes his casting is indeed a bit questionable, but I thought he did a good enough job of carrying the film to each of its points. I do think someone else could have brought a bit more gusto)

Urban - 3.5(What he must do is grimace and have imposing presence. He does both of these well so a job well done)

The Town:

Affleck - 3.5(Again Affleck does a solid enough job of carrying his own film. I once again do think someone else, perhaps his brother, could have brought a little more to the part and stood a little more firmly with Postlethwaite and Renner)

Postlethwaite - 4(Needs to make himself a big threat quickly and does so quite beautifully. Such a terrific menace which he exudes so naturally that he makes Fergus a formidable villain in just one quick scene)

Hall - 3(She does well enough but really her part is a bit too limited for her to make all that much of it)

Hamm - 4(Really does strong work in what easily could have been a truly throwaway role. He makes the Agent appropriately sympathetic and as well is very convincing in his portrayal of his method of tracking down the crooks)

Cooper - 3(Handles his one scene quite well with the right exasperation of a man who's in jail for life, but intertwined with an appropriate warmth for his son but in a way fitting for a criminal)

Luke: I'd give Gyllenhaal probably a 4.

Anonymous: Everything I've seen him in he's been solid, although I've only seen him in very small roles.

You can see my thoughts on Murray and Goodman in my review of Isaac.

Hedlund - 3(He does not do much but he exuded just the right vibe to add to the scenes in the right way)

Sands - 2.5(Honestly I had to look up to see who he was as I forgot about his character. He was entirely fine though, but just did not have much to do)


I liked Shepard as well, although I wish the film had delved more into his character. Shepard is good by avoiding becoming a pure cliche and finding the right balance in his character's behavior. I particularly liked the scene between him and Gyllenhaal after their earlier confrontation.


Cruise - 3(Unlike The Color of Money there is some likability in his extreme enthusiasm here. It is not a great performance for Cruise, but it definitely works for the part as well as the film)

Kilmer - 3(In all instances of the men I wish the film had really gotten to know them instead of focusing on the less interesting romance. Nevertheless within these limitations Kilmer still does the pompous and too confidant jerk quite well)

Edwards - 3(The film does try to hard to make us feel for his exit just right before it happens, yet Edwards should be commended for making him likable)

Skerritt - 2.5(Does not get to really do much other than act supportive with proper criticisms. Skerritt is good at that as he has that naturally mentor quality to him)

Ironside - 2.5(Gets to do even less than Skerritt, but hey his voice sounds cool so any scene with him talking is a bonus)

McGillis - 2.5(I never quite bought her and Cruise together here as they never strike up a strong enough chemistry. She's not really terrible or anything otherwise though)

mrripley said...

Thanks,i think Jake g is gonna get some oscar recognition soon,think he realised when prince of persia was a flop he wasn't a box office star.good 4 him.

I only ever liked Portman is Closer,what did you think of the 4 actors in that esp Roberts and Owen.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: Since I forgot:

Radcliffe - 2.5(There are plenty of times where he is fine but he has the tendency to oversell the emotion as if the idea of the scene won't get across otherwise. The worst case being when he first sees DeHaan's character. His reaction is far to broad and loud just to say that Ginsberg is interested in this guy)

Huston - 3(Fairly limited but he does a nice enough of acting as a balancing factor. He presents a little more down to earth attitude that does feel quite fresh when compared to the, purposefully, self-indulgent manner of the others)

mrripley: You can read my review on Owen but I'll say again I thought he was easily the best although I am not nearly as crazy about him as some. Law always seemed a step behind his character, Portman I feel failed to create the allure she needed, and although I did not mind Roberts all that much, which is rare for me, I didn't find her particularly impressive either.

mrripley said...

I wonder what first choice Cate Blanchett would have done with Roberts's role.