- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

There’s a moment near the beginning of Jake Rademacher‘s new documentary, “Brothers at War,” in which he says that all young men grow up trying to impress their fathers. But one gets the sense from his film that Mr. Rademacher is far more worried about impressing his brothers Isaac and Joe — especially his younger brother, Joe — than his father.

Although Jake wanted to join the military, his poor eyesight kept him from entering West Point; instead his two brothers joined the Army, shipping off to Iraq, while Jake went to film school. After Joe joined Isaac’s brigade as a sniper, it was inevitable that some distance would grow between Jake and his brothers, but Jake was surprised at just how striking that gap became.

“Brothers at War” is an examination of that distance, Jake’s efforts to redeem himself in the eyes of his brothers, the motivation of America’s fighting men, and the toll that their commitments take on their family lives.

Mr. Rademacher’s movie comes from a perspective not often seen in movies — whether documentary or dramatic — about the Iraq war. He gets down and dirty with the troops, shooting the action from their point of view and getting shot at himself from time to time.

Initially, Jake embeds with his brother Isaac’s unit, a long-range surveillance company that sits in the desert just east of the Syria-Iraq border and monitors insurgent traffic for days at a time in the 120-degree heat. During the down time, Mr. Rademacher interviews the troops in order to figure out just why they do what they do, what motivates them to put on the uniform, and how far they’ll go in service of their country.

After a brief trip home — in which Joe makes it clear he’s unimpressed with Jake’s quiet week near Syria — he heads out again to embed with some snipers and a unit training the Iraqi National Guard. Of the two trips, this one is far more action-packed: Mr. Rademacher goes out on a number of missions with the snipers, and the Iraqi National Guard and their Marine advisers come under fire from insurgent forces after an attack on their convoy with an improvised explosive device.

But Jake Rademacher’s time in-country is only half the story. The more moving portion of “Brothers at War” revolves around his time at home, talking to Joe and Isaac’s wives about the stress of military life and the Rademacher clan’s own private tragedies.

We find out, for example, that Jake and Joe’s relationship isn’t the only one that’s changed: Joe’s young wife tells Jake that she has noticed some differences in her husband’s behavior. It’s the sort of moment that would have been blown out of proportion in a Hollywood film less sympathetic to the military — one can almost see the scene: Joe returns home from the war moody and distant before snapping into a violent rage after being questioned one too many times about what he wants for dinner.

In “Brothers at War,” however, it seems like a natural revelation, just one of many changes induced by the stress of going to war. In other words, it feels like real life.

Those interested in a true-to-life look at the soldiers fighting in the war on terror will find much to enjoy in Mr. Rademacher’s moving documentary. By deftly combining footage from the home front and the front lines, he has provided audiences with the first comprehensive examination of life in Iraq through the eyes of a soldier and his loved ones.


TITLE: “Brothers at War”

RATING: R (language and a brief war image)

CREDITS: Jake Rademacher, director; Gary Sinise and David Scantling, executive producers

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

WEB SITE: https://brothersatwarmovie.com


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