The Sisters Brothers

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday October 2, 2018

'The Sisters Brothers'
'The Sisters Brothers'  

"The Sisters Brothers" is all about process and its most laborious elements. The western follows a pair of infamous sibling assassins, the eponymous duo played by Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly, and their Oregon-to-California hunt for a wanted gold prospect. On orders of The Commodore (Rutger Hauer), Eli Sisters (Reilly) and Charlie Sisters (Phoenix) shoot and gallop their way across 1,000 miles to apprehend their target. But make no mistake; this isn't a poppy Proclaimers song where brothers ride 500 miles and then they ride 500 more just to be the ones who ride 1,000 miles to settle up a score.

"The Sisters Brothers" is far more interested in the slow, procedural course of western travel. You truly feel the time passing not in cinematic minutes, but in narrative weeks/months. The film understands that it's the journey itself that's most interesting and never rushes itself toward an easy or clichd conclusion, Alexandre Desplat's methodical score pacing the adventure with rhythms that often resemble the galloping of horses.

Directed and co-written by filmmaker Jacques Audiard, the film is certainly as French as it can be for an American-set western (a colleague humorously deemed it a "quiche western" instead of spaghetti). Benot Debie's camerawork curiously lingers during scenes, Audiard's observing eye fully invested in the dynamics between its central characters.

There's the relationship between the titular siblings, of course, but also a fascinating bond between the wanted prospector Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed) and the man he befriends, John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal). Anchored by strong performances all around, this character study carefully digs into the flaws and greed of man. Arguably, during the movie's most engaging segments, these four characters merge storylines to transform the film into something unexpectedly new.

While rich and textured throughout, the movie's ultimate impact sneaks up on you. I've found myself thinking of various scenes from time to time, from a gross-out gag involving a large spider to a haunting escalation of immoral gluttony while our characters prospect a river for gold. It's a name you'll remember - "The Sisters Brothers" - but it's a movie you'll remember more.