At first glance, this film appears miscast. Immediately I thought, “why isn’t Gyllenhaal the bad ass older Marine brother and Maguire the wimpy screw up?” I was put in my place rather quickly when they appeared on screen together. They really fit perfectly in their roles.
Having said that, I was stunned by the performances in this film; in fact, it’s really what holds this piece together. While everyone does an amazing job, I feel Maguire steals the show. After seeing him in three straight Spidey movies, and a few others where he’s anything but a bad ass, I was blown away by his range, and ability to transform. He plays two extremes (almost two separate characters) during the nearly two-hour flick. Natalie Portman is fantastic as always. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen her act in anything where I’ve not liked her. Gyllenhaal too, is spot on from second one.
This movie doesn’t skimp on lessons either. It made me think quite a lot about what I would do if I was put into a situation where I had to step-up and take care of someone’s family. I wonder if I’d be up to it. I love films that make me think. Not to mention the thought of the ultimate consequences coming about from getting a report that a person I loved and thought was dead is actually alive.
After careful deliberation in my own mind I’ve concluded that at its core, this is really an anti-war film as opposed to a pro-American ass kick flick. I’m not aware one iota of the screenwriter’s political views, but if I had to guess I’d say he doesn’t agree with what American soldiers are doing abroad.
A few times he uses the film as a platform to point out American ignorance about situations and peoples overseas, and at one point uses an American soldier to say we don’t belong overseas at all. I am well aware it fits the plot. I don’t disagree with his choice to write the scenes he did because it makes the opposition more terrifying. They do, however, come off a little preachy, and as if they’re in the movie for the sole purpose of informing the audience of the writer’s political stance as opposed to being a tool used for a thicker, meatier plot.
My only real complaint is the film is too short. It’s nearly two hours, but there are so many avenues, fairly obvious ones in my opinion, that could have been explored to give an overall better experience. There could have been more subplots, and a lot more drama could have been created as a result of exploration. This movie easily could have been 2.5 hours without even trying.
One final note, neither complaint nor compliment, but simply observation, Maguire occasionally narrates the film. It’s a little odd because the narration seems random and a bit forced. Again, all in all it’s worth a watch and the performances are great.