The Sisters Brothers (2018) is a new Western with a great cast. Directed by Jacques Audiard, the film follows Eli and Charlie Sisters, two brothers who work as assassins in Oregon during the 1850s. The film opens with an expansive shot of a desert landscape at night. It’s possible to just make out a silhouette of a house when suddenly a voice shouts orders. Muzzle flashes soon light up the night, and the camera cuts closer until we are introduced to Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix), who are hunting a bounty. It’s established quickly that they are good at what they do, but not much else.
The Sisters Brothers is an interesting film with excellent performances
The chemistry between these two isn’t surprising, considering they are both Paul Thomas Anderson regulars – but that doesn’t minimize how great they are in this movie. Both actors have tremendous range, and Audiard calls on almost every aspect of it. There are scenes that are purely comedic, but much of this film is a character study requiring a level of dramatic acting that comes easily for Phoenix and Reilly. They are sent from Oregon south, hunting Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), a prospector who has something that the Commandant wants.
The Commandant knows where Hermann is, thanks to his scout John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal). Morris was sent ahead to keep track of the prospector, but he gets too close. The connection that Ahmed and Gyllenhaal’s respective characters form is in large partially believable because of their performances. The four main characters of this film all give excellent performances and make the film all the more entertaining as a result.
This film is definitely attempting to say something, though some messages are far more clear than others. Themes of greed, family, change, and government all infiltrate the western vistas that as the characters travel from Oregon to San Francisco. Questions of loyalty and ambition threaten to tear the various pairings apart or to make unlikely alliances. Either way, there is a compelling story told in The Sisters Brothers.
However, I enjoyed many of the scenes in the film, it’s not without its flaws. Still, the performances and blending of tones did make the film one to check out. Reilly was truly the highlight for me, and it made The Sisters Brothers one of his best performances. This film earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.