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Review: The Sisters Brothers

October 5, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Based on Canadian author Patrick deWitt’s acclaimed book of the same name, The Sisters Brothers follows Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix), a pair of outlaw brothers in 1851, Oregon.

The brothers are hired by a mysterious crime boss known only as The Commodore (Rutger Haur) to find and kill Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), an eccentric prospector looking to make it rich during the Gold Rush. Hermann is also being tracked by a rogue detective named John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), leading the paths of all four men to inevitably cross.

Adapted for the screen by Jacques Audiard, The Sisters Brothers is a well crafted western that has been somewhat misrepresented by the advertising. While there are moments of dark comedy here, as glimpsed in the trailer, the film mostly plays it straight, offering a scrappy and mostly engaging yarn that is also unexpectedly bittersweet in its portrayal of the bond between these characters.

The film feels a bit long at points, and there is an episodic feel to it at times. But The Sisters Brothers benefits greatly from being beautifully filmed by cinematographer Benoît Debie, and the film is carried by strong performances from its core cast of actors. John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal all bring interesting textures to their respective roles and do a wonderful job of playing off each other, and they are collectively the reason why the film is worth seeing.

A version of this review was originally published during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

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