"Greed Leads to Emptiness and Death"
What You Need To Know:
THE SISTERS BROTHERS is all over the place, and mostly in good ways. Just when viewers might think the plot or characters are going in a particular direction, the movie surprises them with a new revelation. There are also plenty of moments of humor in the brotherly banter between Eli and Charlie. The movie has a mixed worldview, however. Strong moral elements show greed and murder lead to emptiness and death and promote a strong theme of brotherly love and care. These elements are mixed with pagan lawlessness and subtle anti-capitalist messages. This mixture, some extreme violence, lots of foul language and some lewd content warrant extreme caution for THE SISTERS BROTHERS.
THE SISTERS BROTHERS is a Western with dark comedic moments about two hitmen brothers trying to track down a chemist who has a formula to find gold more quickly.
Eli Sisters (John C. Reilly) and Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) live in 1850’s Oregon, and they’re known as deadly outlaws who work for a Commodore. As children, the brothers had an abusive drunkard father who Charlie, the younger brother, eventually killed. As adults, Charlie has become the violent drunk who lives up to his father’s reputation, while Eli’s the more sensitive and more gentle, but still deadly, brother.
Charlie and Eli’s new mission is to meet up with a detective named John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) who’s tracking a chemist, Hermann Warm (Riz Ahmed). Warm has created a formula that allows gold prospectors to pour the solution in water to help find the gold in the river. The Sisters brothers’ boss obviously wants to extract the formula from Warm so he can make a fortune.
As he follows Warm, Morris strikes up a friendship with the man, and Warm finds out about Morris’s true motives to hand him over to the Sisters brothers. However, Morris has a change of heart and decides to help Warm implement the formula, so they can start a business together. Warm wants to use the money he makes to start a shared commune in Dallas that’s built on Marxist ideals opposed to profit.
As the Sisters get closer to Morris and Warm, Eli reveals to his brother Charlie that he wants out of this lifestyle and just wants to settle down. The sunset seems to be setting on their partnership, and this one last mission together could prove to be the most deadly and life changing for them.
THE SISTERS BROTHERS is all over the place, and mostly in good ways. Just when viewers might think the plot or characters are going in a particular direction, they surprise them with a new revelation. There are plenty of moments of humor in the Sister’s brotherly banter and arguments, and a particularly hilarious moment when Eli (played by John C. Reilly) is learning how a toothbrush is used. Joaquin Phoenix plays perfectly into the wildly unpredictable and brash Charlie Sisters, but has the heart necessary to keep the brothers’ bond strong, even though Eli is the stable, reliable brother. This heart is what keeps the movie from becoming boring. It’s still jolting, however, when one or both of the brothers shoot men and women point blank. The production is top notch, with terrific weathered sets and beautiful locations in Spain that terrifically stand in for the wild west of southern Oregon.
From a moral standpoint, though Eli doesn’t want to murder, he’s willing to do so if it means protecting his brother back. In the end, all the murders they’ve committed nearly catch up to them, and the brothers must decide what sort of lives they really want to have. The greed and survival lifestyle of the Sisters, and of many others, is contrasted against Warm’s desire to have a commune built on sharing. Warm’s dreams are ultimately cut short because of greed. Ultimately, THE SISTERS BROTHERS is a mixed bag that positively shows the danger of greed and violence, but that also takes subtle jabs at capitalist society as being the perpetrator of such greed and violence, instead of placing the blame on the sinful nature of Man, as the Bible teaches.
At times, the content is rough to watch in THE SISTERS BROTHERS. Some brutal violence, salty language and sexual implications (including a scene in a brothel) warrant extreme caution for adult viewers. A satisfying, and somewhat uplifting ending helps keep the movie from being unwatchable, but viewers shouldn’t let themselves feel roped into making THE SISTERS BROTHERS a priority.