Quick Hit: Brotherly bonding despite differences is a movie I can get behind.
It’s interesting to note two things that occurred to me throughout this movie. The first is that I consistently thought of my brothers throughout it (more on this in a bit). The second is that it works interesting to look at The Sisters Brothers through the lens of one of John C. Reilly’s other films, Stepbrothers. It essentially took that concept and spun it into a hilarious film, whereas the Sisters Brothers puts it into a Western context and makes it far more dramatic and dangerous. Part of this is the casting (comparing Will Ferrell to Joaquin Phoenix kind of makes me cringe, but I just did it), but part of this is just further evidence that John C. Reilly is possible of starring in almost any film.
Anyways, let me hop off the soapbox and start talking about the movie. Set against the background of the U.S. gold rush, The Sisters Brothers follows two brothers Eli (Reilly) and Charlie (Phoenix) as they chase a man across the west coast, presumably for the money. They’ve been hired by the boss (named The Commodore) to kill a man named Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), for reasons that turn out to be that he has discovered a solution to make gold appear in the water. He was first tracked by a man named John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who was supposed to hold him for the Sisters. But Morris was swayed by the allure of gold as well as Warm’s consistent portrayal of a man who wants to better the world.
The film serves to be a character study of the relationship between Eli, who is softer and starting to contemplate a life beyond killing, and Charlie, who is a drunk and seems to really enjoy the attention that being a killer has brought him. You also get a comparison between the brothers with Morris and Warm – the brothers immediately seem less sophisticated and less educated, but who is in the right overall? It’s really fun justification, and it’s where it leads me to my discussion of my own family. I have two brothers, and I think each of us reflects one of the characters in this movie. I’m not going to define who is who, but it’s clear that we each have our own benefits, and the movie shows that as well. It’s beautifully done, mainly through quite moments of discussion throughout the movie.
This does lead me to a different discussion – the movie proceeds fairly slowly and unhurried, with moments of extreme violence and even some body horror to break the monotony of the normal. Some of these slow moments, like the one Eli shares with a prostitute near the middle of the movie, are beautifully done. Some, mainly those that feature Charlie, are extremely anxious. It’s usually reflected in the cinematography as well throughout the film, which gives some beautiful shots throughout the film that are indicative of the best westerns have to offer.
The acting throughout the film is fantastic, and at times truly amazing. Phoenix gives a performance that is wild as an untamed horse, frequently showing that he is one of the best in the business at performing people with a short fuse. Gyllenhaal gives a quieter performance that he voices with one of the best character voices of his career. Ahmed brings a curiosity and a playfulness to the role that few could have brought, and Reilly, as mentioned throughout this post, shines. He makes the film by arguably bringing all the moments together – at times violent, others quiet and longing, and still others riotously funny.
Some viewers may be turned off by the aforementioned body horror – others will be misled that made it seem like Stepbrothers set on horses. But those that are willing to sit and watch and truly contemplate some of the questions that The Sisters Brothers asks will be in for a treat. I’m giving the film an “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"