It is rare now to find a film that the whole family can enjoy together. Either a movie is geared too much to the children, boring the adults, or it is too intense for the kids. With ‘Two Brothers" there is a film that while not among the greatest, is very good family faire. The story details the lives of two young tiger cubs, Kumal and Sangha, born in the ruins of a temple in the forest of Indochina. Both of the cubs have distinctive personalities, great for the kids to better identify with. Kumal is the gentle one of the pair, playful and kind of heart. His brother Sangha is the bolder brother, bold and fierce. One fateful day a hunter turned tomb raider, Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce), kills their father who is defending his family while the mother tries to hid the cubs, and the brothers begin new lives apart form each other. Gentle Kuma is sold to a circus while Sangha winds up in an exotic zoo owned by the governor. Life for poor Kumal is rough, even brutal. The circus is a prison for him as he is forced to learn tricks for his keep. Meanwhile in the governor’s zoo Sangha’s wilder nature is about to become his downfall as he is condemned for tasting blood. I guess he was vegan prior to this. The years go by and as circumstances would have it the brothers are set to fight each other to the death. Since this is primarily a family film the brothers recognize each other and plot to escape for the world of humans.
While this film is as realistic as any family nature film it has a certain charm to it. I had to get past the use of CGI to make the mouths of the tigers move to their ‘dialogue’ but putting that aside it was fun to watch. There are the usually clichés that abound, the PETA friendly message that killing an animal for sport or fur is wrong. Considering the de-sensitization the overly violent films and video games instill in our children a kinder, gentler theme is a welcomed change. The only scene that is remotely sexual in nature is the one at the start of the film showing the conception of the twin cubs. This may spark the necessity for ‘the talk’ with your younger children as they inevitably ask ‘mommy what are the tigers doing?’ In the early scenes with the cubs at play there are so many similarities which the house cat that children and adults alike will immediately bond to these animals. This is important to forge the bond that will pull the audience in, making us care about their fate and root for their reunion.
Guy Pearce is the one human in the cast that actually seems realistic. He has the difficult task of making like a person with a heinous profession. First he is a sport hunter, killing animals and then he basically turns to making a living robbing scared places, selling anything of value and selling it. Pearce is a capable enough actor to pull this off. Thankfully, the adults will be lulled by the beautiful scenery and camera work to not care much about the reality of his work. It also seems that Pearce enjoyed his time working with the tigers, more than many actors display with their human co-stars. Most of the other humans are just filling in space and creating situations for the tigers to work.
Jean-Jacques Annaud co-wrote and directed this film with a professionalism and style that is rarely seen in Hollywood today. Like a previous film of his, The Bear, he uses the animals much as other directors would use humans. The camera manipulation is expert. There are many extremely complicated shots involving the tigers that you start to believe that they actually hit their marks on time. The use of lens that provides imamate close-ups of the tigers display the intelligence of these creatures and that there is emotions behind those eyes. As mentioned previously I could have done without the anthropomorphic gimmick of having their mouths move to the dialogue but I supposed this was done to help the audience accept them as thinking, caring creatures instead of animals. While I am not part of the target demographic for this film I was drawn in by the incredible wonder this film creates. The sets are fantastically beautiful, juxtaposed against the only source of cruelty in the film, man. Typical of a movie that employs wild animals many of the scenes where shot twice, once with the human and again with the animal. While this is for safety and understandable Annaud choose to shoot some key scenes with both man and beast on the set together. This provided a greater sense of realism and helped the film considerably. The pacing is fast enough so the young ones will not get bored. There is little need for a lot of exposition here, each scene speaks for it self and adds to the momentum of the film.
Universal has paid excellent attention to the mastering of this DVD. The Dolby 5.1 audio is rich and encompasses you with the ambient sounds. You really get the feeling of being there. The anamorphic video is so clear that it seems that you are able to discern the individual hairs on the tiger’s coat. The director’s commentary is more interesting that I had pictured it to be. Annuad is an animal lover and his respect for the tigers comes across as he remises about the details of making the film. The presentation also provides a plethora of extras that will teach and entertain all members of the family. Going through them was like spending the afternoon with the animal channel. Each minute detail of the production is given a featurette. Everything from scouting the remote locations to how the thirty or so tigers used in the film where trained. Like the film itself the tigers are the real stars of most of the features here. There is even one on how new camera techniques where developed to capture the unique perspective of the film. This is a film that is perfect for enjoying as a family.