Film Review – The Sisters Brothers (2018)

Title – The Sisters Brothers (2018)

Director – Jacques Audiard (A Prophet)

Cast – John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rebecca Root, Rutger Hauer

Plot – Infamous assassins the Sisters Brothers Eli (Reilly) and Charlie (Phoenix) traverse the dangerous surrounds of Oregon in the 1850’s in search of gold prospector Hermann Kermit Warm (Ahmed) of whom they have been charged to kill.

“You’re not going to like what comes next”

Review by Eddie on 20/06/2019

Somewhat of a forgotten film of 2018, The Sisters Brothers is a film filled with pedigree behind the camera and in front of it, but it didn’t stop this darkly comedic and slowly paced adaptation of Patrick DeWitt’s well-regarded novel from appearing and disappearing from many people’s minds in the latter half of last year.

It’s a curious case of wrong place and wrong timing, as A Prophet director Jacques Audiard film is as assured as you’d expect from a type of a production that has genuine star power at its disposal and a relatively hefty 30 million plus budget, but the slow paced nature and quiet story at the heart of this Western tale is likely the reason why so many people forgot it even existed and why despite some genuinely noteworthy reviews, was lost amongst a raft of other prestige films in the awards season.

While changing things up in more ways than one, Sisters is a fairly straightforward adaptation of DeWitt’s pitch black and violently tinged novel that focuses on John C. Reilly’s kind-hearted Eli Sisters and Joaquin Phoenix’s Charlie Sisters, two-hitman/enforcers for hire who are sent on a quest by a man known as the “commissioner” to find their colleague John Morris (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and Riz Ahmed’s mysterious chemist Hermann Kermit Warm, who has a debt owing to the commissioner.

It’s a simplistic set-up and one that is even more bare-bones when you begin to realize that the film’s main concern is to allow you to spend time with Eli and Charlie as the two long bound together brothers begin to face up to the changing nature of their lives.

This isn’t a bad thing as Reilly and Phoenix make for great companions, with both performers sharing a believable and sometimes tense chemistry, with Reilly in particular awards worthy as Eli, a man that unlike Charlie, isn’t as fond as killing and violence and is beginning to wonder about what a life outside of the business he is in may look like, but one that seems far away as a keeper of sorts of the drunken and depressive Charlie.

Despite this not being a bad thing, and with fans of both performers likely in for a treat when watching Audiard’s film, is does make one wonder that with more of an inventive and higher-stakes plot with a more zippier pace, Sisters could’ve been a genuine breakout hit and elevated itself up to a higher place than a merely entertaining, yet sadly instantly forgettable ride.

With seemingly all the elements at its disposal, including a moody score from Alexandre Desplat and some picturesque surrounds captured courtesy of D.O.P Benoit Debie, this is a polished production with flashes of brilliance technically and performance wise but one that feels weighed down by simplistic plotting and a sense that there’s a lot of time wasted on not of a lot of meaningful content, even if the films end coda is touching in its humanistic approach to its subjects.

Final Say –

For fans of DeWitt’s book and for those followers of the main casts work, The Sisters Brothers will be a joy to behold but with meandering pacing and a persistent but non-rushed bare-bones plot, Audiard’s film feels ever so slightly like a missed opportunity to turn this material into something truly special and undeniably memorable, not just a pleasant diversion.

3 ½ spiders out of 5

5 responses to “Film Review – The Sisters Brothers (2018)

  1. I agree, there was just something….off about this. Loved the characters. The pacing i think is what killed it. I did love that scene where they finally find gold in the river using Warm’s methods. Wasn’t expecting it to go like that lol

    • Yeh pacing is a good point Tom! It was funny. There’s so much to like in the film but yeh there is just something amiss overall. I wish it had found that magic as this could’ve been amazing.
      E

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