Two Brothers Review
In 1988, director Jean-Jacques Annaud filmed a tale about an orphan bear who befriends a man named Tom, together they learn to co-exist as they try to flee hunters. The Bear was well received, applauded for its beautiful photography and the amount of hard work put into capturing the delightful scenes that audiences fell in love with. Sixteen years later and Jean-Jacques returns to the animal kingdom, to tell a beautiful story that just may be one of the finest films of his career.
Two Brothers tells the story of two young tiger cubs, Kumal and Sangha, born at a temple in the Indochina forests where they live with their parents. Kumal is soft and gentle, whereas Sangha is strong and fierce, one fateful day sees them separated when a British hunter by the name of Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce) shoots and kills the cubs' father, whilst trying to protect a fellow colleague. Initially only after statues and various relics to take away and sell, McRory finds himself in an unexpected situation when he meets Kumal and decides to take him away to look after. Soon he loses track of Kumal as he is sold to a circus, whilst Sangha finds his way into the home of a wealthy family. Fate will decide if the brothers are to ever see each other again or live a life of misery and suffering.
I've just seen the most special film of the year! This leaves with me the task of reviewing a film that quite literally left me speechless and with an enormous sense of joy, making me wonder why it has been completely ignored at cinemas and award ceremonies and subsequently released out of nowhere, quickly on DVD.
From the moment that Two Brothers opens and we are drawn into Kumal and Sangah's world we know this is going to be something memorable as the cameras take us deep into their environment and shows us in extraordinary ways how these creatures live in the wild, but such is the power of this cinematic feat that the tigers appear to be actors themselves. This is largely thanks to animal wrangler, Thierry Le Portier who also worked on the aforementioned The Bear. Quite how he pulled off this spectacle so admirably is beyond me, I would even say that a lot of what we see is impossible to catch on film and yet the evidence is here. By careful planning and filming through special cages Jean-Jacques Annaud takes us closer than we've ever been to these majestic creatures, showing us the various other inhabitants of their home in glorious detail, which at times takes us away from the story arc, as though we were watching a documentary. These tigers interact with each other in many different ways and without saying a word we can understand them through their actions, showing that we don't always need to see films with CG talking animals. The ways in which these brothers and their parents interact with each other is enough to bring a tear to anyone's eye and melt the heart, a film that manages to raise an emotional bar where we can simply cry because we are watching something so beautiful and simple such as two cubs walking through a forest or curiously chasing a butterfly.
Note: Shortly after watching this I checked out the extra features which had a piece on the SFX used. I'm actually stunned by the amount of clever computer manipulation techniques and animatronics used, attributing to the striking imagery. This is the most powerful example of computer technology used in a film, for it to be able to appear so believable.
Two Brothers's story is so deliberately simple that one can't criticise it too much for being what it is. The film sets out to deliver a message to all about this dying species by taking us on a journey, seen not only through the eyes of the tigers themselves but also that of the hunters and those who are affected by their presence. We have the stereotypical bad guys who could be considered a shameless addition to an otherwise perfect film; the circus trainer who gets what he wants from his performers by threatening them, the hunter who finds redemption for his acts or the small love interest that fuels more of the film's character interaction, but at the end of the day we can take it all with a pinch of salt.
The performances are not even all round consistent, save for Guy Pearce who easily adapts to situations and clearly has a deep amount of respect for the material. His co-stars (tigers aside) are fairly one dimensional, serving as examples of the various Aristocracies that threaten our natural world, through greed, ignorance or just doing what they feel is right by them, under given circumstances. After all, Disney has been getting away with telling us stories with such characters over and over for years. Do not take my statements as personal attacks on a certain company; what I simply say is that despite any shortcomings that are visible here they make little difference to the final impact, which most importantly is delivered lovingly, with a well balanced amount of humour and drama.
The filmmakers wish for it to be known that throughout the course of the last hundred years the population of tigers in the wild has decreased astonishingly from 100,000 to just 5,000 and that is something that we should all stop to think about. It may be easy to consider the film as nothing more than an advertisement for the World Wildlife Foundation but I cannot believe that this is ever the case, and considering that Jean-Jacques has visited similar territory in the past it can only be assumed that he does this as a labour of love and it's in this respect that directors like him deserve full praise for what it is that they set out to achieve; not to earn a quick buck but to make audiences realise that there are terrible things that go on in the world and if we can learn this and be entertained at the same time then that's great. The film is moral and poignant without ever being overly sentimental or pretentious, and for that alone I tip my proverbial hat to the great man.
Pathé has released this wonderful film on a great disc that allows the film to shine in several areas.
Shot digitally and then transferred to film stock, Two Brothers has been carried over to DVD exceptionally well. The natural grain inherent to the digital shooting process is evident, only becoming really noticeable during dark and foggy scenes. There is a tiny amount of motion blur, presumably caused by a specific shooting process, where several frame rates were used depending on the nature of the scene. With that out of the way this is a gorgeous, anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer that captures a tremendous amount of detail, with pin sharp visuals and vivid colours. This film deserves nothing less so I'm pleased to say that Pathé have done a great job here.
There are times when subtitles are needed, these are burnt into the image but only appear a few times throughout the film. Edge Enhancement is very minimal, in fact it is only noticeable for the brief moment that these subs pop up, showing a tiny halo around the edge of them .
The main feature is given a 5.1 Surround track that creates a great deal of ambience throughout, particularly in the forest scenes of which there are plenty. The dialogue is at times a little too quiet but for the most part it is clear with no major flaws. Several of the film's action oriented pieces come across brilliantly, with a solid and even separation through the speakers.
Unfortunately the following special features are not subtitled.
Jean-Jacques Annaud talks passionately about the film, letting us in on many of the tricks used while filming, along with telling us about his research for the film, shooting in Cambodia and working with Guy Pearce, who he admired very much for dedicating himself to the project. It is also interesting to hear how the tigers were to work with and the various shots employed. The track is very informative and Jean-Jacques never takes a moment to breathe.
Wild About Tigers
A fascinating feature running for 35-minutes is introduced and narrated by Guy Pearce. This looks at the life of the tiger, covering several areas such as geographical backgrounds, killing techniques (with amazing footage, particularly during a crocodile kill), mating rituals, senses, conflicts, man eaters and finally a word on saving tigers, looking at the sickening way in which tigers are killed and used for medicinal value and rugs.
There are five short featurettes here. These are:
SFX Featurette : SFX manager, Philippe Soerio talks us through some of the amazing digital effects used that comprise mostly of composite shots. It is very eye opening but can spoil the magic of the film for some I'd imagine. I was very surprised for many shots.
Tiger Brothers : An annoyingly posh boy narrates this 3-minute featurette about tigers.
Tiger Trainers : The boy is back. This runs for just over 4-minutes and shows us a brief look at tiger wrangling.
Tiger Cam : The boy narrates us through a 3-minute segment about the special types of cages and cameras used to shoot the film.
Tiger Tech: Running for just over 2 and a half minutes this piece takes a look at the animatronics used in the film.
This is the original trailer that sets up the film quite well, using that piece of music from Dragonheart which seems to pop up in trailers from time to time - it's the emotional thing don't ya know.
Baby Tiger Outtakes
At over 18-minutes this series of outtakes provide many enjoyable moments from the adorable little tig's - a must see.
Call of the Wild
This runs for just 50-seconds and features several tigers in quick cuts from behind the scenes and on set roaring.
Two Brothers it fully deserves high marks, despite one or two niggles. It will make you laugh, cry, learn and come away with a joyous feeling, which is everything you could ever want from a film. I know that words cannot simply make you believe but seeing is believing so they say, so to parents or any individual out there, please pick up this film for you or your loved ones and let them see a truly magical piece of cinema that has been criminally overlooked this year.