The twin narratives of the two pairs of men travelling along the western coast through Oregon, encountering very tricky situations with saloons, undesirables and a troublesome spider, weave together to deliver chaotic action and intimacy by turns. Reilly and Phoenix create a palpable chemistry as they both fight to save each other and communicate their differing perspectives on their "work" and their brotherly love. In turn, Morris and Warn journey through disaffection and discovery to end up on the same side. The quiet moments between these two pairs of men are beautifully played, and not something you expect of the Western, but are what makes it such a worthwhile watch.
It feels long at times, but there are quickly unfolding events that take your attention away from the clock and deliver. The four men eventually catch up with each other and more travails ensue, dramatic, comic and tragic. The marriage of emotional moments, with anarchic action, gore and comedy combine beautifully with lush cinematography (Benoit Debie) and nuanced direction, (Jaques Audiard) to create an interesting portrait of love, money and loyalty in the American West. An unusual slant that takes us far away from the spaghetti westerns and the grit of recent revivals. There is grit and bullets a-plenty, but the quieter scenes construct an empathy and power that link the havoc with the uneasy harmony seamlessly. The tenderness of Eli with his beloved horse, and the care of Charlie for his sick brother are very different, but equally poignant. It’s gross and touching, beautiful and ugly, with some funny bits that are downright slapstick, and Rutger Hauer makes a brief significant appearance – always a good thing.
I doubt 'The Sisters Brothers' will win any major plaudits, but that doesn’t take away from the exemplary performances of the four main protagonists (and these may individually achieve acclaim). Even if you’re not a big Western fan, this is a nice nugget to get your teeth into.