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. In the beginning of the film, we see the two still happily frolicking around in the Cambodian jungle, where the young tigers try to master the basics of their later 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 extrovert and brave Sangha ends up in a circus, while his other half becomes the pet of a governor’s son. Years later, the brothers meet again and are forced to face off in an organized fight. Is their blood bond stronger than the natural killer instinct that equips tigers as apex predators?
Tigers are without a doubt among the most iconic animal species still roaming the earth today. In ‘Two Brothers’ it appears that the big cats also do well as movie stars. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud gives the brothers plenty of room to shine and seize that opportunity with four legs. In the beginning, the young tigers are especially endearing, while in the second half of the film, grown into equally graceful and extremely strong powerhouses, they predominantly impress. It is also nice to see that the two tigers have their own personality and even undergo a real character development along the way. This gives the film the eloquence it needs to make the story shown work. The human actors are – except for Guy Pearce – largely in the shadow of the striped main protagonists.
‘Two Brothers’ is certainly not terribly original. The story is fairly predictable and mostly follows the established pattern of greedy and irresponsible humanity who exploits and misuses other species for their own gain. In addition, the whole brother story is occasionally accompanied by a strong splash of anthropomorphism or romanticization, which is especially evident in some atypical behaviors that tigers would not easily display in the real world. In that respect, Annaud succeeds in staying closer to the true character of the animal protagonists in the rawer, but not entirely incomparable print ‘The Bear’ (‘L’ours’).
Yet ‘Two Brothers’ has enough zest to camouflage the above-mentioned imperfections nicely. 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 end is good for a classic lump in the throat. Quite a nice film that, with the exception of the really little ones, is suitable for the whole family.