Year: 2010
Production Co: Michael De Luca Productions
Director: Jim Sheridan
Producer: Michael De Luca
Writer: David Benioff
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sam Shepard, Mare Winningham, Clifton Collins Jr

Jim Sheridan's motives are good, it's his outlook that always lets him down to me. A lot of people liked the grittiness of In America, but it couldn't hide the enormous does of sentimentality that made the whole thing feel like Ken Loach does Disney.

He falls victim to the same shortcomings in this remake of a Danish film to a lesser extent. Stoic soldier and family man Sam (Maguire, stiff and scary-looking, like a cross between Kermit the Frog and Dr Crippen - but maybe that was the point) has a pretty and devoted wife, Grace (Portman), and their two adorable girls. Hi ne'er-do-well brother Tommy (Gyllenhall) is released from prison, and just before Sam ships out to Afghanistan we see the frosty family relations between Tommy and the rest of the clan.

When Sam's chopper is shot down in action, Grace finds herself drawing closer to Tommy in her grief, especially as he seems to turn his life around, helping her cope and even being the uncle he never was to the girls.

But a title character hasn't been killed off so early Angie Dickinson in Dressed To Kill, so my suspicions were immediately aroused. It turns out Sam's survived the crash but been taken hostage by a band of cold-blooded Afghan stereotypes. They make him do something terrible to his co-captive and not long after, a US platoon happens across the camp and Sam is rescued and sent home.

Sparks fly because of the closeness Tommy's enjoying to his family, closeness Sam won't allow himself to feel any more because of what he's done, and despite the slow start it's effective in driving the emotional stakes higher and the performances are good enough to portray the drama.

Strong, but Sheridan's still a little sugary.

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