Brothers, a drama centered around the war in Afghanistan, is based on a 2004 Danish film, but it could just about be a remake of the aftermath-of-Vietnam soaper Coming Home (1978). In this case, though, there’s no saintly paraplegic, and the more the love-triangle drama tries for power, the more it strains. Tobey Maguire, newly buff and buzz-cut severe, is Sam Cahill, who returns to Afghanistan for a fourth tour — and is presumed dead when the chopper he’s in gets shot down. In fact, he has been made a prisoner of the Taliban, who have devised unique ways to break down his defenses (I won’t reveal their methods).
Natalie Portman is Sam’s devoted wife, Grace, and Jake Gyllenhaal is his disaffected ex-con brother, who starts hanging around Grace and her kids to comfort them. His loving impulses ultimately cross a line of propriety, though not nearly as greatly as Sam imagines after he returns home: an unlikely survivor who now has the outlook (and pallor) of the walking dead. Brothers isn’t badly acted, but as directed by the increasingly impersonal Jim Sheridan (In America), it’s lumbering and heavy-handed, a film that piles on overwrought dramatic twists until it begins to creak under the weight of its presumed significance. C+