Two Brothers – Deux Freres (2004)
Directed by: Jean-Jacques Annaud | 105 minutes | adventure, drama, family | Actors: Guy Pearce, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Freddie Highmore, Oanh Nguyen, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Moussa Maaskri, Vincent Scarito, Maï Anh Le, Jaran ‘See Tao’ Petcharoen
‘Two Brothers’ tells the initially tragic and compelling story of the tiger brothers Kumal and Sangha. At the beginning of the film, we see the two happily frolicking in the Cambodian jungle, where the young tigers try to master the basics of their much-needed hunting skills while playing and under the watchful eye of their parents. However, the youthful idyll is cruelly disrupted when the brothers are captured and separated from each other. The more outgoing and braver Sangha ends up in a circus, while his other half becomes the pet of a governor’s son. Years later, the brothers reunite and are forced to go head to head in an organized fight. Is their blood bond stronger than the natural killer instinct that tigers are equipped with as apex predators?
Tigers are without a doubt one of the most iconic animal species still roaming the earth today. In ‘Two Brothers’ it turns out that the big cats also do well as movie stars. The brothers are given every opportunity to shine from director Jean-Jacques Annaud and seize the opportunity with all fours. In the beginning, the young tigers are mainly endearing, while in the second half of the film, they have grown to be as graceful as they are extremely strong powerhouses. It’s also nice to see that the two tigers have their own personalities and even go through a real character development during the film. This gives the film the expressiveness needed to make the story shown work. Apart from Guy Pearce, the human actors are largely in the shadow of the main striped protagonists.
‘Two Brothers’ is certainly not terribly original. The story is quite predictable and mainly follows the usual pattern of greedy and irresponsible humanity who exploits and abuses other species for their own benefit. In addition, the whole brother story is occasionally accompanied by a strong dash of anthropomorphism or romanticization, which is mainly reflected in some atypical behaviors that tigers would not easily display in the real world. In that respect, Annaud succeeds better in staying closer to the true character of the animal protagonists in the rawer, but not entirely incomparable print ‘The Bear’ (‘L’ours’).
Still, ‘Two Brothers’ has enough impetus to nicely camouflage the aforementioned imperfections. This is mainly due to the beautiful cinematography and the strong performance of the trained tigers. The end result is therefore mostly positive: the tigers are fantastic, the locations exotic and the ending is good for a classic lump in the throat. Quite a nice film that, with the exception of the real little ones, is suitable for the whole family.