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BROTHERS – Thomas Newman

December 4, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Brothers is the latest film from acclaimed director Jim Sheridan, whose previous efforts include My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father. A remake of film director Susanne Bier’s 2004 Danish film Brødre, it stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire as brothers Sam and Tommy Cahill; Tommy is in jail for robbery, Sam is a United States marine serving in Afghanistan. When Sam’s helicopter is shot down in action, everyone presumes him to be dead, and Sam’s wife Grace (Natalie Portman) turns to the recently-released Tommy for comfort in grief. Gradually, Tommy and Grace form a new relationship… only for their lives to be shattered when a very-much alive Sam returns home, having survived the helicopter crash and spent months in the hands of Afghan militants.

The score for Brothers is by Thomas Newman, his only work of 2009, and like much of his recent work goes down the ambient, modernistic path rather than the symphonic stylings that his fans enjoy so much. To be fair, a big score would not have suited a film like this; the synths, guitars, and light metallic percussion effects ground the film in a modern setting, and give the story the gritty, edgy sound that director Sheridan needed to make his film believable. Regrettably, this makes the score as a listening experience a little dull, with very few cues rising out of the realm of ‘ambient textures’ and into anything more interesting.

The opening “Homecoming” presents the film’s nominal main theme, a series of moody electric guitar chords augmented by brooding synth chords, setting the scene for the dramatic nature of the film to come, and which are repeated later in the “Main Title” and the conclusive “What Happened?”. Cues such as “Bad News”, “Uncle Tommy”, “Ice Skating” and “Snowman” do have a more lively aspect, and while still reliant on electric guitars and Hammond organs, do at least offer some down-home rock/country grooves which are fun to hear. Unfortunately, the majority of the remaining cues are little more than exercises in rhythm and texture, with synth percussion and eerie electronic sound effects taking precedence, creating a sense of tension and drama for the Afghanistan scenes, and the subsequent pressures between the siblings.

As much as I understand the way Thomas Newman works, and why these scores sound the way they do, I can’t help missing the other Thomas Newman, who writes filled with melody and passion and emotion. Sit this one on the shelf alongside the likes of In the Bedroom, Little Children, Towelhead and Revolutionary Road, in a pile marked ‘appropriate for the film, but ineffective away from it’.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • Homecoming (1:50)
  • Bad News (1:01)
  • Uncle Tommy (2:41)
  • Afghanistan (1:23)
  • In the Hole (0:41)
  • Sold (1:27)
  • Ice Skating (1:02)
  • Not Another Word (0:53)
  • Brothers (Main Title) (1:59)
  • No Value (1:49)
  • The Pipe (2:42)
  • Snowman (0:48)
  • Night Graves (1:05)
  • War Hero (0:49)
  • What Happened? (4:43)

Running Time: 24 minutes 53 seconds

Relativity Media (2009)

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