08th Jan2019

‘The Sisters Brothers’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rebecca Root, Allison Tolman, Rutger Hauer, Carol Kane, Patrice Cossonneau | Written by Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain | Directed by Jacques Audiard

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Based on Patrick DeWitt’s novel, The Sisters Brothers revolves around the colorfully named gold prospector Hermann Kermit Warm, who’s being pursued across 1000 miles of 1850s Oregon desert to San Francisco by the notorious assassins Eli and Charlie Sisters. Except Eli is having a personal crisis and beginning to doubt the longevity of his chosen career. And Hermann might have a better offer.

Director Jacques Audiard continues his run of terrific form after Dheepan and Rust and Bone with the powerfully stoic, yet sentimentally endearing western The Sisters Brothers. A film that stars the talent and screen presence of acting giants and character actors in the calibre of John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed, yet still manages to put forward a balanced and effective character arc for each and every one of them.

The Sisters Brothers is a bizarre Frankenstein-esque monster of archetype convention. The fundamental genre conventions of a western are here but never fulfilled in a generic manner of a stereotypical approach. Instead, a subversion of sorts takes form. A quite clever and customised, if you will, strategy – to reinforce that while you may be watching a conventional western at a glance, you’re watching a truly indicative Jacques Audiard conceptually crafted western at its finest. The result is a gloriously thematically tepid and dangerously provocative feature. Oozing poignancy and dread in fiery breath reflective in the personalities brought forward in a terrific screenplay from writers Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain, adapting from the 2011 book with the same name by Patrick DeWitt.

The gusto and bravado of the era exhibit a raw and unpolished edge. Contextually appropriate of course in a world that is building itself into a new enlightening and detrimental beginning, and in this period of swift evolution The Sisters Brothers finds itself illuminating themes and consequences of stagnation against hope. A Ying and Yang approach between Reilly and Phoenix as The Sisters Brothers with Gyllenhaal and Ahmed as John Morris and Hermann Kermit Warm, respectively, is the key instigation of bellicose aggravation and intimacy. An enchanting and compelling narrative unfolds with two distinctively opposite worlds colliding with parallel goals of selfish succession. One rooted in regressive old fashion mentality and deprivation, swelling to an inflammation far too toxic and problematic for its own good. The other a vibrant and bold prodigy of ambition. A strive for an intoxicating and irresistible McGuffin, of which is delightfully enigmatic. The fireworks both verbal and physical are increasingly chaotic but deeply subversive, thankfully never overstepping the mark into a grey area of irresponsible nihilism.

The Sisters Brothers is released in the UK on April 5th 2019.

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