Flickchart Battle: Brothers (2009) vs. The Terminal (2004)

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In the first corner, we have a post-war drama/thriller that questions the boundaries between friends and family. In the other corner, we have a comedy/drama about a likable man who becomes trapped in an American airport terminal during his country’s revolution. Which film will survive this battle? Let’s find out!

Brothers is one of those films that isn’t easy to watch. Starring Tobey Maguire as Sam Cahill, he’s presumed dead when his helicopter crashes in Afghanistan. His wife, Grace (Natalie Portman) and brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) become close due to their mutual mourning and share intimate feelings for each other. Once Sam is rescued and returns home, nothing is the same.

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You can tell how this isn’t a light film to watch with the entire family on Thanksgiving. It dives into the harsh truth about the mental trauma that war does to soldiers and the way it tears families apart. As a viewer, you’re torn about what every character should do. How long can Grace wait for the man that she loves to return? How genuine are her feelings for Tommy? Sure, Sam is a victim of cruel events during war, but will he ever be able to leave it in the past to save his family? And Tommy certainly means well, but when does his positive presence become too much of an obstacle for his brother to return to a happy life? These questions are what make Brothers a very good film.

On the other side, who doesn’t like The Terminal? Yes, it’s goofy but it’s a lot of fun with a great big heart! Tom Hanks stars as Viktor Navorski, a resident of Krakozhia that erupts in a civil war making his passport invalid. Therefore, he’s stuck at JFK until further notice, which lasts quite a long time. In the meantime, Viktor learns how to make money so he can continue to buy food at Burger King, he learns how to speak English, makes a number of friends with the terminal employees, and most importantly he meets Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a flight attendant he becomes attracted to.

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The Terminal is a romantic-comedy for all ages and it’s very heart-warming. Tom Hanks gives a lovable performance and has fun with the fish-out-of-water comedy in the first half of the film. It has an impressive supporting cast as well, including Stanley Tucci, Diego Luna, and Zoe Saldana. It’s also an underdog story for love, involving a woman who is clearly out of Viktor’s league but somehow warms up to him. And the mystery surrounding the canister is great, giving meaning to Viktor’s trip and persistence to get into New York City. When you think it’s impossible to like Viktor any more, the ending will have your eyes soft with tears. While it’s nothing ground-breaking, The Terminal practically does everything right.

So what’s my decision? Who wins this match-up? While I’d most likely choose The Terminal to watch if both films were on at the same time, I have to pick Brothers because of the impact it had on me. It was the more important film of the two and while I love Tom Hanks and everything he does, Brothers was superior in its message and vision. Plus, the incredible scene towards the end of Brothers might very well be Tobey Maguire’s finest moment in his career. What a suspenseful, powerful scene that was.

Winner: Brothers

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