Henry Alex Rubin’s action drama Brothers in Arms (2019) explores the difficult dynamic when a man finds himself backed into a corner, and his family is at risk.
Jai Courtney stars as Cal, a small-town police officer and a reserve for the United States Marine Corps. When he’s not on duty, Cal spends his days with his childhood friends Jaeger (Finn Wittrock), Snowball (Arturo Castro), and Milk (Beau Knapp), all while trying to keep his half-brother Oyster (Nat Wolff) from getting into any more mischief.
The hand of fate has an uncanny ability of plucking on our strings when we’re least expecting it; after a late night out at a local bar Cal and the boys decide to head home, leaving Oyster there chatting up some girls. When Oyster ends up in a bathroom brawl with another patron killing him accidentally, things rapidly spiral into chaos.
Cal finds Snowball harbouring Oyster at his apartment and – thanks to his by-the-book personality – arrests him. Having repeatedly committed offences in the previous years, this future was expected for Oyster.
The following months are far from glamorous: Cal and his buddies are called to war, deployed to Iraq eight months later. Meanwhile, Oyster is attempting to adjust to prison life, but such an endeavour is next to impossible when the chief officer working at the correctional facility sets Oyster in his sights and makes his life hell. When Cal returns home, and visits his brother with Snowball, they are shocked to discover a lattice of bruises on Oyster’s chest from his time behind bars. Despite the rocky, often antagonistic relationship that Cal has with his little brother, Oyster is family. Therefore, he takes it upon himself to break his brother out of jail and give him the foundation of a better life, across the U.S. border.
Though Brothers in Arms appears to be a tame, domesticated crime film, there is more lying underneath its picturesque surface. First and foremost, Rubin’s story illuminates the necessity of, and the tenderness found, in male relationships. Cal, Snowball, Jaeger, and Milk care for one another deeply, and their loyalty extends far past the regimented cohesion that is demanded of them in the Marines Corps.
Each character is dealing with personal challenges on their return from Iraq; but it is through each other, shared memories, inside jokes, and a mutual understanding built up over years, that they are able to find strength to carry on. Though they may disagree and question one another at times, it is not in an unhealthy way, but out of love and concern. The film itself is only an hour and thirty-five minutes, but the intimate, friendly chemistry that flows between the actors is easily established: it isn’t a stretch to think that perhaps they’re close friends beyond the cameras as well.
Between temperate and tense moments, conflicting atmospheres emphasise the high stakes that the men come to face at the story’s climax. The film takes place in the small town of Bridgewater NY, and the comforting familiarity of this particular setting, found in its gentle winding roads. With neighbourliness and recognition. the townspeople’s exchanges with one another seems to squeeze Cal from the outside in, making the solutions to his surmounting problems seem that much more out of reach.
‘Semper fidelis. Always faithful.’ The camaraderie the men maintain in the face of all that occurs is beautiful. It’s beautiful, and it’s scarce, and Hollywood could definitely take a chapter out of Rubin’s book – regardless of whether this film was a major success or not – whether it was on the big screen or not. With a new decade beginning in a few weeks, hopefully we’ll recognise that vulnerability isn’t a weakness and relying on others is better than suffering alone. Because we all need someone who is always faithful.
Brothers in Arms is available on Digital now
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95