BROTHERS (Susanne Bier). 110 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (June 3). For venues and times, see Movies, page 175. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
War is hell.
Since Vietnam, films that don't make war messy and brutal can't pass the credibility test. Gone are the days when war meant heroism and camaraderie and movies were part of the government's propaganda machine.
The Danish film Brothers is no exception. Michael ( Ulrich Thomsen ) is shipped off to Afghanistan on the same day his brother Jannik ( Nikolaj Lie Kaas ) is released from prison. The Danish soldiers are less jingoistic than their counterparts in American films, but Michael still reassures his troops, "You won't face anything you haven't been trained for."
On his first mission, his helicopter crashes and he's presumed dead. Brought together by sorrow, Jannik and Michael's wife, Sarah (a luminous Connie Nielsen ), become intimate, and Michael's two daughters gradually replace their father with their uncle. Meanwhile, Michael, languishing in a prison camp, faces a choice no training could prepare him for. When he returns home, he's unable to trust Sarah or forgive himself.
Michael's rage is truly terrifying, but it's Nielsen who puts in the best performance. She conveys grief and gratitude in a single glance, reminding the audience that it's not only soldiers who pay a high price in war.