I finally got around to watching Susanne Bier's Brødre last night, the 2004 film that was recently remade by Jim Sheridan and released earlier this year. That version starred Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal in the roles originally played by Connie Nielson, Ulrich Thomsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas. If you remember, I liked Sheridan's version of the tale and was very interested to see how the original tackled that film's major flaw - the ending. Each movie has their own individual strengths and weaknesses.
Brødre's performances are generally stronger, with Nielson and Thomsen proving superior to Portman and Maguire in my eyes, however, I felt that Gyllenhaal improved upon Kaas' performance as the black sheep of the family. The remake sticks very close to Bier's original, even replicating scenes seemingly word for word, however the best scene in Brødre is one that was, curiously, not in Brothers - a scene in which Thomsen's returning soldier visits the wife and infant child of a man that he... well, if you've seen either movie you know, but I won't say in case there are people out there who wish to see them soon. At least, I don't remember it being in Brothers? If it was then it clearly wasn't done as powerfully as it was in the latter film.
But, as I mentioned earlier it was the ending that really piqued my interest in knowing how Bier would handle it. The entire final act is handled better in Brødre, I think. Something about the original felt stronger, more organic and natural than Sheridan's remake. Bier refuses to have her film's final scene revolve around Thomsen's revelation of what he did in Afghanistan, which is where Sheridan and his writer David Benioff slipped up. The audience is already well aware of what the soldier did after being captured by the enemy so to make the big climax of the film be him telling his wife what he did resulted in a limp end to a thought-provoking film. In Brødre the final scene is more about Thomsen's inner turmoil and the acting of the two leads. By the time this final scene comes around the audience doesn't need a big swell of music to tell them they feel like in the remake. The actions of the Thomsen/Maguire character should no longer be the focus, but instead on how they have affected the man and in Brødre that's exactly what I felt Bier did.
So in the end I give the Danish original the upper hand, but in the end they're both quality films. Brødre: B+, Brothers: B