Showbiz & Celebrity / He’s In A Western? Riz Ahmed Shines In Offbeat TIFF 2018 Film “The Sisters Brothers”

He’s In A Western? Riz Ahmed Shines In Offbeat TIFF 2018 Film “The Sisters Brothers”

Showbiz & Celebrity Oct 05, 2018

One of TIFF’s most-buzzed films stars John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed in a violent, funny, unforgettable spin on the American Western. Check out how Riz Ahmed shines in offbeat TIFF 2018 entry The Sisters Brothers.

Sent on a mission by their gangster boss, two gunslinging brothers named Sisters (John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix) chase a young prospector (Riz Ahmed) who’s developed a revolutionary new method for gold-panning, across the Old West. Ahead of them, discreetly tracking that same prospector, is a conflicted detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) also dispatched by the kingpin. Over the ensuing weeks, these four men will come to collide, and none of their lives will ever be the same again.

If all this sounds like boilerplate Western fare, rest assured, The Sisters Brothers is anything but ordinary.

Based on the celebrated 2011 novel by Canadian Patrick deWitt, it’s a cinematic ride that exceeds or subverts expectations at nearly every turn, providing a remarkably full film-going experience. The requisite thrilling shootouts and showdowns are just window dressing for a witty, nuanced and ultimately profound engagement with life, loss and the ever-problematic notion of the American Dream.

Riz Ahmed Shines In Offbeat TIFF 2018 Film The Sisters Brothers
Riz Ahmed Shines In Offbeat TIFF 2018 Film The Sisters Brothers: Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly play outlaw brothers Charlie and Eli Sisters. Photo Credit: www.tiff.net

The Sisters Brothers, like its name, stands out among its peers — as both a sterling example of iconic Western filmmaking and a commentary on the same. Part of that is perhaps due to French director Jacques Audiard (Rust and BoneDheepan), the latest European to take on this distinctly American genre. He’s crafted a stunning film, epic in its ambition, but thoroughly, commendably concerned with small character moments between the titular siblings, themselves at a crossroads in their relationship, struggling to shed/forget a past that doggedly continues to define them. A similar narrative plays out in the brotherly kinship that develops between the prospector and the detective; stranded in a world of brutality, pessimism and ruthlessness, they bond over a shared desire for a more enlightened way forward.

Before the inevitable collision of these four wanderers, Audiard, who co-wrote with frequent collaborator Thomas Bidegain, spends his time fleshing out their parallel relationships. The resulting film adopts the typical laconic pace of the Western, yet every horseback- or saloon-set conversation is enthrallingly charged with wit and packed with slowly teased-out meaning.

Riz Ahmed Shines In Offbeat TIFF 2018 Film The Sisters Brothers
Riz Ahmed Shines In Offbeat TIFF 2018 Film The Sisters Brothers: Riz Ahmed, Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly speak onstage at The Sisters Brothers press conference during 2018 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Photo Credit: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

All of that said, naturally the success of a film like this rests on the performances. When a cast — any cast — includes John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed, you’re expecting big things, and down to a man, they deliver. Phoenix has the flashiest role of the four as the alcoholic agent of chaos that is Charlie Sisters, and once again thrives playing a deeply broken live-wire type. Reilly as elder Sisters brother Eli is more internal but arguably more impressive, embodying a different type of cowboy — the stoic, do-what-I-must sort; but he manages to imbue Eli with such humour, humanity and depth that another Oscar nod should absolutely be in the underrated actor’s future.

But perhaps it’s Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), continuing his rise up Hollywood’s A-list, who shines brightest. His fresh-faced Hermann Kermit Warm (a departure from the much-older character in deWitt’s novel) embodies the best parts of that aforementioned American Dream — its hope and optimism and potential. And far from coming off as naïve or preachy, he lends Warm an intelligence, conviction and, yes, warmth, that’s nigh on irresistible.

Riz Ahmed Shines In Offbeat TIFF 2018 Film The Sisters Brothers
Riz Ahmed Shines In Offbeat TIFF 2018 Film The Sisters Brothers: Official theatrical poster for The Sisters Brothers. Photo Credit: Elevation Pictures

The Sisters Brothers is a subtle film. It doesn’t instantly grab hold of you and refuse to let go. But as these four men clash and commiserate to dark, funny, thrilling, deeply affecting results, it slowly dawns that you’re watching something indelible.

The Sisters Brothers opens across Canada Friday, October 5.

Main Image Photo Credit: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Matthew Currie

Matthew Currie

Author

A long-standing entertainment journalist, Currie is a graduate of the Professional Writing program at Toronto’s York University. He has spent the past number of years working as a freelancer for ANOKHI and for diverse publications such as Sharp, TV Week, CAA’s Westworld and BC Business. Currie ...

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