The Brothers Bloom Review

Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and his younger brother Bloom (Adrien Brody), along with their all-but-mute Japanese sidekick Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), have been a successful team of confidence tricksters since their childhood. But Bloom is beginning to tire of the life. Stephen persuades him to take part in one last con, the target being eccentric heiress Penelope (Rachel Weisz).

With his first feature, Brick, writer-director Rian Johnson took an old, indeed classic, cinematic genre – film noir – and set it in a modern-day high school. With The Brothers Bloom, Johnson's love of genres which hark back decades – back further than most of his intended audience's lifetime, in fact – continues. This is a film about conmen, with several nods to The Sting (such as the chapter titles which mark the stages of the con). Although it's set in the present day, Johnson goes for an old-world glamour, with transportation by boat and train (the Orient Express). There's a Coen Brothers-like love for films and filmmaking for their own sake, and like them a tendency towards a cleverness that doesn't quite touch the heart.

Johnson makes confidence trickery a clear metaphor for cinema. Stephen is a writer/director, his chosen medium the con, while Bloom is the actor who brings his older brother's creations to life. Questions of morality play no part: it's all fake (including the occasional blood) and no-one is hurt. In the most successful cons, everyone ends up with what they wanted. As does the audience...up to a point. The plot is pleasingly convoluted, taking in several attractive locations, and the performances of the leading cast attractive – Weisz in particular seems to be revelling in a much different role to those she's played lately. But, while entertaining enough for the hour and three quarters it runs, the film doesn't quite hit home as it should, with the characters ultimately being little more than pawns in Johnson's scheme. It doesn't help that Brody, while a fine actor, is not the warmest of leading men. But along with Brick it does show him to be one of America's more interesting younger filmmakers at present.


Optimum's DVD of The Brothers Bloom is dual-layered and encoded for Region 2 only. It begins with trailers for The Ghost, A Prophet, The Losers and a commercial for Galaxy chocolate. You can skip these by using the chapter button on your remote, except for the commercial which you can only fast-forward.

Shot on film in Super 35, The Brothers Bloom is transferred to DVD in its intended ratio of 2.40:1, anamorphically enhanced. It's a transfer that does justice to the colourful locations. Steve Yedlin's camerawork goes for a filtered, slightly soft-focus look – well, hard-edged realism is not on the agenda here – and that comes over well.

There is a choice of soundtracks, Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby Surround (2.0). Either way, the surrounds are well-used for some directional sounds, and the subwoofer helps out with a thunderstorm and some gunshots and explosions. English subtitles are available for the hard-of-hearing, and there are some onscreen subtitles translating some brief exchanges in foreign languages.

The extras have a Play All option, totalling just over an hour. To break them down into their constituent parts, they begin with a making-of featurette (15:35), which is not much more than some behind-the-scenes footage with the occasional caption identifying certain key crew members. This may have been converted from a NTSC source as ghosting and combing is visible.

Specific to this UK edition is an interview with Rian Johnson (18:46). Framed with a copy of the film poster on the wall behind him, Johnson talks about his intentions for the film, and the contributions of the cast, and the feel of heightened reality he was aiming for.

Next up are a lot of deleted scenes (32:32). Johnson suggests we watch these with his commentary switched on – but we don't get that choice. In most cases, it's fairly clear why the scene has been removed, mainly for pacing and time. Finally, there is the theatrical trailer (2:12).

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Last updated: 18/04/2018 14:21:56

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