The Sisters Brothers (2018)

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The script is based on the novel by Patrick DeWitt and follows brothers Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix), who are in pursuit of Herman Worm (Riz Ahmed). It turns out that Herman has escaped with something of great interest to their employer. Private detective John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who was assigned to guard him until the brothers arrived, escaped with him. The brothers embark on a long journey from the Oregon desert to San Francisco to deal with them. Along the way, Eli will experience a personal crisis and will begin to doubt the longevity of their career, and it turns out that Herman might have a good offer for him…

This film is a western and the story takes place in the Wild West, but none of the important characters, especially not the brothers from the title, are characters characteristic of this genre. They are not classic heroes, but they are not classic villains either, they do not represent the law, nor do they run from it. In the opening itself, when only flashes of gunfire represent light, we see the Sisters either attacking someone or attempting an arrest. However, it will turn out that they are not attacking for their own benefit or out of boredom, while their methods make it clear that they are not exactly on the side of the law.

Eli and Charlie are Commodore’s men, the head of a criminal organization. They are mercenaries with no ethical code, and they do it because they have been in this world for so long that there is simply nothing else for them to do. The script makes them intriguing characters, placing them somewhere between the main heroes and the villains. Although both are tough guys, the brothers are different. Ilaja is tormented by an internal conflict, because he has had enough of such a life. He fantasizes about settling down with the teacher who gave him chess and opening a clothing store, where his brother would come to buy shirts. On the other hand, Charlie scoffs at the concept of normality, as he believes that he was not born for such a life.

Brothers are certainly inconvenient if they are not on your side and their loyalty to their employer goes so far as to be willing to die in his service. In relation to the basic premise and the fact that the story develops, their characters have more depth than one might expect. On their journey, they encounter dangers such as bear attacks or people who want to kill them. However, the authors essentially repeat the same themes and it all boils down to the fact that Ilaj wants to end everything, but is devoted to his brother, who is a violent alcoholic. In short, the entire film can be described as a series of scenes in which our heroes get into trouble and get out of it.

When I compare this movie to, say, A Prophet, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed, even though it’s a totally different genre. Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly did their job, but after this movie it’s a little clearer to me why characters like this are relegated to the background of the story in classic westerns. The film is occasionally comical, occasionally violent, but it relies too much on the cinematography and actors, which means that it is boring at times. The author is looking for humanity in our protagonists and I can’t say that he hasn’t found it, but it is found in the rare breaks when they are either not killing or taking what they want.