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Two Brothers (2004)
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by David Cornelius

"A great animal movie for people that love animal movies."
4 stars

It tells us a little something right at the beginning of “Two Brothers” that above-the-title billing goes not to any human actor, but to the tigers Kamal and Sangha. This is a movie of infinite respect and love for the animal kingdom, so why not show it right from the start?

I haven’t seen a film like this since “The Bear,” which is fitting, since “Brothers” is directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, who also made that previous animal wonder. Annaud repeats himself with stunning, how’d-they-do-that? cinematography that follows the tigers through all sorts of wild adventures, with the camera getting so close that most scenes overwhelm you with a sense of awe. (And unlike several Disney pictures, there’s no effort here to give the animals human voices.)

Whereas “The Bear” studied the effects of humans invading a natural habitat, “Brothers” goes a little further, also examining how animals in captivity are treated. Here we have magnificent creatures stripped of their souls, tamed for our amusement. Sure, I have no desire to meet a ferocious tiger in the jungle, but it still breaks my heart to watch these beautiful animals broken and defeated.

The plot is more detailed than you might expect from this kind of film. It’s early 20th century French Indochina, and a family of tigers is disrupted when adventurer Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce) and his crew of scavengers begin looting an ancient temple, an arrival which leads to a tragic series of events, at the end of which the tiger parents are dead, one baby tiger (Kamal) is carted off to the circus, and the other (Sangha) becomes the pet of the French consul’s son.

The rest of the story I will not spoil. Things get worse for both tigers following a full year in captivity, and the movie’s most heartbreaking moment comes when Kamal, having a chance to escape back into the wild, instead returns to his cage, head held low, for that is all he has known. Natural instincts replaced by forced ones; man has ruined the spirit of another animal. (The irony of using trained animals to argue against animal cruelty is not lost on me, but I also have faith that the filmmakers treated these creatures with the utmost respect. Maybe I’m naive.)

The screenplay, written by Annaud and Alain Godard, does fill out the tigers’ story with more human action than expected. This is the film’s only stumble - the people here are more caricatures than anything else (the great white hunter, the bumbling administrator, the prince stuck in his father’s shadow, the corrupt circus owner). But these caricatures work in relation to the overall story. We’re not here for them. We’re here for the tigers. (For the record, Pearce delivers a wonderful performance anyway, a scoundrel on the brink of becoming a better man.)

As for those tigers, I’m not sure exactly how they did that, but I don’t think I want to know, either. Don’t want to ruin the magic of the movie. Oh, it’s obvious that it’s a combination of well-trained animals, animatronics, and CGI, but there’s still a level of absolute wonder to this production. Kamal and Sangha are magnificent animal actors, and the film’s so well put together that the illusion is near perfect. Through editing, scripting, photography, and the tigers themselves, we’re convinced that these brothers’ emotional ordeal is so very, very real. And that is where “Two Brothers” becomes a marvel of filmmaking, and a fantastic story sure to thrill, as they say, audiences of all ages.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10130&reviewer=392
originally posted: 12/20/04 14:20:55
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/12/20 bored mom Awe-inspiring and cuddly all the same, the tigers' scenes make this movie worth watching. 5 stars
3/27/07 Amanda This movie made me bawllll my eyes out! it was so amazing! 5 stars
3/30/05 Nick Boyd The two tigers are cute and endearing but the human characters bog down the story 4 stars
3/28/05 Danny Not as good as "Born Free" but entertaining for anybody who likes big cats! 4 stars
10/18/04 Misty De Meo I must say that I disagree - the human elements weren't really the focus, and I adored it. 4 stars
9/26/04 Maggie I think this movie was great! i never stopped crying! 5 stars
9/22/04 maxine brillant 5 stars
9/07/04 efilmcritic is the Australian version of the site, A.J. Check hollywoodbitchslap.com for US release dates. Stephanie has a point; I like a bit more 3 stars
9/07/04 Stephanie Throckmorton I love tigers and good nature movies, but this is BOOOOORING!! 2 stars
8/13/04 A.J. Did anyone else realize that this page says that this movie wen't to theraters in Jan. 05? 5 stars
8/07/04 Charlotte Absolutely fab film, the tigers are so cute! Definitely worth seeing... 5 stars
8/04/04 ownerofdajoint don't waste your money.this movie does not know what it wants to be and therefore if fails 2 stars
7/30/04 Matt DeLuca Beautiful movie! 5 stars
7/25/04 nagarajan toot good film to watch 5 stars
7/21/04 Whitney Bullard I took my 3-year old, but I was the one who was riveted. Totally disagree with this review! 5 stars
7/21/04 nicki I cried the whole way through. I love animals and HATE greed. 5 stars
7/10/04 Varney Thought it was a great clean movie. hard to find 5 stars
7/07/04 Virginia & Scott We thoroughly enjoyed "Two Brothers". Had to see (saw & loved "The Bear). 4 stars
7/06/04 Carol Bad movie with a nice ending 2 stars
7/06/04 martha entertaining to a degree 4 stars
7/05/04 Peter Ryter I enjoyed this movie because of the tigers. I was there to enjoy these magnificent animals 5 stars
7/03/04 ron fitzpatrick watching the tiger cubs being brutally separated from their parents was way to painfull 1 stars
6/28/04 brit what ever 3 stars
6/28/04 Erica What movies are meant to be. Eemotionally engrossing and technically excellent 5 stars
6/28/04 Anna Jones Terrilbe - Took 7 year old daughter - we walked out - too much violence!! 1 stars
6/25/04 Thomas Pacheco Cat Movie big deal I guess the kids will like it 3 stars
6/23/04 Ray Beautiful 5 stars
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  25-Jun-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2004



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