Practically the only Westerns to live up to the classics or, at least, try to be original are Indie films. And “The Sisters Brothers” is an entertaining example. It tickles you in an honest sort of way, and it moves you with the characters feelings and ambitions.
The time period is 1850s Oregon. John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix star as assassins Eli and Charlie Sisters, better known as The Sisters Brothers,” who are hired by the Commodore to track down and kill a gold prosecutor named Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), who has stolen a formula that can make gold-digging in the rivers so easy. They both came from an abusive father, whom Charlie was forced to kill; and most of the way through, they argue about Charlie, the younger brother, getting the lead job, and his excessive drinking. Eli struggles to tame him.
In addition, once the job is done, Eli plans to give up the game, and maybe, open a store. But Charlie sees no reason to quit. Maybe it’s the booze talking, I don’t know.
Also on the trail is John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has been hired to find and apprehend Hermann, and then turn him over to the Sisters Brothers. He manages to find Hermann, and when he finds out about his job to turn him in, that’s when John learns about his experiment, and joins forces with him. That’s when the Sisters Brothers have to extend their mission, and when they find them, they manage to team up on their gold rush.
Directed by Jacques Audiard (“Rust and Bone,” “A Prophet”) and based on Patrick DeWitt’s book, “The Sisters Brothers” introduces us to some familiar characters, and yet, doesn’t follow the typical Western cliches. It amazes and delights us with its flexibility and its style.
The honest humor I’m pertaining to shows us a small poisonous spider making its way in Eli’s mouth, not killing him, but leaving him a bit sick. Just sleep it off, and next time, be careful where and how you sleep. And the same character learns how to use a wooden toothbrush, and they used powder back then.
The performances from Reilly, Phoenix, Gyllenhaal, and Ahmed are uniformly fine. The movie takes its time to introduce us to their characters, until they cross each other’s paths. I wasn’t expecting them to join forces on their experiment; and that’s the point of originality, it has to be unpredictable.
It took a while for me to understand the main reason for the mission, but the more I watched it, the more I understood. The movie is flexible and gorgeously shot, and the sets (filmed in Spain and Romania) are authentic with the wooden buildings and tools. If some people complain that some sets look fake, at this point, I can’t tell, but I admire them. This is a great looking Indie Western with a terrific cast.