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Two Brothers /

Rated: PG

Starring: Guy Pearce, Freddie Highmore, Mai Anh Le, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Jean-Claude Dreyfus

Directed by: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Produced by: Jake Eberts, Jean-Jacques Annaud
Written by:
Jean-Jacques Annaud, Alain Godard
Universal Pictures


Guy Pearce in Universal's Two Brothers

Freddie Highmore in Universal's Two Brothers
Tiger cub Sangha and his mother watch as his twin brother is taken away in Universal's Two Brothers

     There is one movie on filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaudís resume that stands out. Under the title of The Bear, it was released in 1988, introducing somewhat of a new concept into cinema. Using very little human acting and almost entirely focusing on one baby bear in the woods, he accomplished quite a bit, considering the dialogue constraints. Unlike in Homeward Bound, the animals in Annaudís movie were not personified by actorsí voices; they had to actually perform, by themselves, and create emotional resonance. Now, of course they were trained to weep and moan on queue, but The Bear was a tearjerker, nevertheless. There was something poignant in the dramatic contrast between a powerless animal and all-mighty humans, serving for a creatively stimulating experience. But, the film did not garner masterpiece status because of a rather non-existent plot, mediocre performances from the few actors involved, and an imbalance in tone. Still, I will continue to remember it, fondly, for some time to come.

     Fast-forward sixteen years and youíll find yourself in present day. Since The Bearís release, Annaud had let the animals take a backseat to human drama in his film career. But, he has finally returned with a picture called Two Brothers, which chronicles an amazing fictional adventure shared by two tigers, named Kumal and Sangha. As cubs, they are taken from their mother after their father is killed, living out separate lives, under the order of humans. From the jungles of French Indochina, they are transported to a nearby city, by a man named Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce). Aidan makes a living selling ancient statues, which he finds in exotic locations, and just so happened to be chiseling away at those surrounding Kumal and Sanghaís home, resulting in their capture. They may be apart, afterwards, for awhile, but it wonít be hard for most audience members to conclude that the two will reunite someday soon, around a quarter-way through the filmís duration. But the point of Two Brothers is not to provoke thought; instead, it simply serves as a beautiful showcase for the loveable animals. Tigers may be ferocious in real life, but they seem to be as harmlessly victimized by people as ants are by predators who stomp on them when they meander across their tile floors.

     All of The Bearís flaws have been corrected in this film. The miraculous tigers, which are nearing extinction, embody a stronger narrative arc that of the black bears, making for a more engaging motion picture. The plot may be driven by some extremely farfetched events, but still moves things along, quite nicely. The greatest change Annaud has made in Two Brothers, though, is that he has allowed his team of casting directors to choose a real lead actor. Guy Pearce is commanding here, creating a very conflicted personality, and resolving it wonderfully, in the end. Aidan shows that he cares about tigers, as he sweetly feeds Kumal in a few scenes. But also shoots them, for the benefit of his cash-generating cause. Viewers will be pleased about his ultimate decision regarding hunting, though, which isnít as obvious as it may seem. Pearce exhibits Aidanís internal conflict fantastically, and will unfortunately be left unmentioned by most reviewers, and left a victim to the superior likeability of the presences of Kumal and Sangha.

     Even with so many redeeming features, along with some beautifully photographed landscapes, thanks to cinematographer Jean-Marie Dreujou, Two Brothers does not go without flaw. A useless subplot involving a powerful government official whoís a bit of a crappy hunter detracts from the pacing, though this doe not quite trigger boredom. I am also not sure whether the flick wants to be a comedy or a drama, because its mixture between upbeat scenes and drearier ones is often deceiving. But, sometimes, we just have to take a movie for what it is. And since Two Brothers is a usually engaging, sweet, and original piece of work, Iím perfectly happy with it. If this isnít worthy of a recommendation, I must be totally lost, as a film critic.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (7.12.2004)

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