It is rare that I find myself agreeing with Roger Ebert on much of anything, but this is one of those times. Brothers at War is that movie that I've been waiting for as well. A movie that shoots straight, and is neither pro-war nor anti-war. It is not a war movie; rather, it is a movie about family. A family of five brothers, mothers and fathers, children and grandchildren, and even a fiance. It is a movie that deals candidly with a variety of life issues, almost staggeringly so. It is a movie about soldiers and their life.
The core of the story is that Jake Rademacher, after not getting into West Point, went into acting and movies. Two of his brothers did go into service, and served in Iraq. Jake not merely wanted, but needed to know what they were doing, why, and who with. The result was two journeys into Iraq to spend time with his family, and later to embed with Marines who were training Iraqi Army units. More than that, Jake and his team also filmed the home front.
The result is a movie that shows as complete a picture as possible. Not only was Jake's family (and one brother's fiance) extremely candid and open about themselves, a family tragedy, and their issues in regards having family in combat, the soldiers and Marines that took part were amazingly open and candid as well. Jake earned their trust, and it shows in the comment made by one soldier that Jake was one of the few good and honest reporters. He earned that trust, and I feel that he has kept it throughout the process and has done right by those troops, his family, and the larger family that is the military.
Brothers at War is honest, sometimes unflinchingly so. It does not sugarcoat reality; yet, it also doesn't attempt to play the other way either. It simply shows that which is, as it is. Or, rather, as it was at the time the film was shot. Things change, and that too is a message and a part of the movie.
The technical aspects are outstanding. The videography is superb, and the play between different cameras and quality (such as with night shots) is deftly handled. Within 30 seconds, I was back in Iraq, and the film will show what was to the people who have never been there. The audio is amazing, and the production values higher than some big budget movies of late. It is a true labor of love, and it shows.
I repeat that it is not a war movie. It is a movie about family, both blood and larger, and as such there is a lot of humor in it. In point of fact, I laughed harder and more often than I have at the last so-called comedy I went to see in the theatre (or last several even). There are moments that will tug at the heartstrings. It was not what I expected, it was more.
No movie, no written missive, can bring you the true and full reality of what it was like for our troops in Iraq. Even if the words and images could so move, the reality was different for each individual. Brothers at War provides an honest look and a moving insight for the reality of one family, and a glimpse into the reality of the soldiers and Marines featured. It does a very good job when one considers the time constraints of any movie, for I do wish it could have shown even more.
If you want to get a better idea of what things were like, both in Iraq and for a military family, then there is nothing better out there. If you want to better understand the troops and their families, then there is nothing better out there. For the squeamish among you, the actual combat part is short and the parts that could cause you discomfort are fleetingly brief. Much more time is spent with that which leads up.
What is your bad day is the wrap for the movie, and it reminds me what a truly bad day can be. It also serves as a reminder to enjoy, to make the most, and to not sweat the small stuff. It reminds one of what a good day is, for all.
Transparency Notice: I am a volunteer with Soldiers' Angels and did attend the opening in Fayetteville, NC as such; and, SA is a partner --with other groups -- on the movie. That said, most who know me also know that if it were dreck I either would call it such or say nothing at all.