Two tiger cubs born in the jungles of Cambodia at the turn of the century, Kumal
and Sangha quickly learn the ways of the world when their parents are killed for
sport, and the two brothers are captured and separated. Kumal is sent to a
circus to be violently trained as a "blood-thirsty" performer, and Sangha is
whisked away to the cages of a royal family, where he's groomed for public
battle. With the help of a rogue fortune hunter (Guy Pearce), the two tigers
might have a chance for a happy reunion, but not before being pitted against
each other in a battle to the death.
Jean-Jacques Annaud's "Two Brothers" (IMDb listing) is another step in the director's
continuing quest to explore the nature of nature. A cross between a Disney "True
Life Adventure" story and Annaud's own 1988 animal drama, "The Bear," "Two
Brothers" isn't the most engrossing picture of the year, but it stands as a
family film triumph that doesn't rely on flatulence or condescension to speak to
its young audience.
As a filmmaker, Annaud has superbly rendered many interesting sights and sounds
through his pictures such as "Quest for Fire," "The Name of the Rose," and his
last effort, the magnificent, "Enemy at the Gates." "Two Brothers" is his first
film to be shot in the digital video format, yet leave it to Annaud (and
cinematographer Jean-Marie Dreujou) to finally take the format to new heights
with this brightly photographed motion picture. The DV is necessary (a rare
occasion), since the tale concerns the erratic actions of two very real life
tigers, with Annaud using digital and animatronic tricks to convince the eye
that these animals are actually interacting with humans and other creatures, or
in severe danger, as found in a climactic jungle fire sequence. Though DV
doesn't penetrate the senses the way film can, "Two Brothers" remains a lovely
and utterly convincing film to watch.
The stars of the film are the two tigers, Kumal and Sangha (who hilariously,
through deservedly, receive top billing in the opening credits), with Annaud telling the
story through their eyes and actions with wordless abandon (the film is
dialog-free for most of the runtime), much like he did with "The Bear." Though
heavily trained, the tigers are natural stars, conveying the required emotions
for every scene, and putting their sleepy human co-stars to shame. In fact,
every time the picture focuses on the human characters, "Two Brothers" loses
steam immediately. The picture is much more assured simply focusing a
camera on the playing cubs, and seeing the world of hunting and animal butchery
through their eyes.
Annaud's love for the animal kingdom glows in almost every frame of the picture,
and the film ends with a needed reminder of how endangered these creatures
are. "Two Brothers" is a fun, thoughtful, resourceful adventure for the whole
family. You'd be doing your children a favor by taking them to see it.
Filmfodder Grade: B+