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The Brothers Grimm (2005)
Director: Terry Gilliam

review by Debbie Moon

Brothers Jake and Will Grimm travel early 19th century Germany, using their theatrical skills to convince gullible villagers that they're under attack from witches and monsters - and then driving the threat away for a fat fee. But their reputation backfires when the occupying French army force them to investigate a real case of occult activity. With the aid of a young huntress outcast by the rest of the village, they connect the disappearance of several young girls to an abandoned tower in the forest, scene of a legend of a beautiful queen (Monica Bellucci) seeking immortality. But there's no such thing as the supernatural - is there? The answer will force them to confront a rivalry and hatred that's been simmering since their childhood...

A great deal has been written about the circumstances surrounding the making of this film, and the degree of control the director did or didn't have over the cast, script, and budget. Whatever the truth of that, what finally emerged is a distinctly minor Gilliam, something with a flavour of his greater works, but never quite approaching their brilliance. The design and the photography are excellent, conjuring a real sense of fairy-tale menace, and the central performances are the film's greatest strength. Matt Damon's grasping Will and Heath Ledger's bookish Jake precisely capture the interdependency and suppressed mutual hatred of brothers who've been together for far too long. Lena Headey makes an agreeably feisty heroine, but the other characters tend toward clich�s, and the early emphasis on silly accents and comedy torture feels more like imitation Gilliam than the real thing.

Once the brothers are finally forced to take on their occult nemesis, however, the film becomes truly magical. The realism of Damon and Ledger's performances pays off handsomely as they struggle to overcome real grudges in order to work together, and the macabre figures that oppose them are genuinely dangerous and tragic. In other words, it's well worth ploughing through the film's early weaknesses simply for the final confrontation, a tantalising taste of what the whole film should have been.
The Brothers Grimm

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