Predictability and formula in films are often derogatory terms. Cinematic shorthand though allows a film-maker to concentrate much more on other nuances of the film. Equally plotting you can see coming a mile off in a film need not be bad if it feels right. Brothers (Brødre), the new Susanne Bier film is happy to plough a pretty predictable course for its plot, to spend a little bit more time on its characters. Problem is, the plot demands so much of a shift in the characters that this is not always convincing.

The plot is all about symmetry. Two brothers (not tigers): Michael the good one, and Jannick the bad one. Michael is in the army, is married with kids and everyone admires him. Jannick has got out of jail. Nice contrast right? Except when Michael is feared killed in Afghanistan, Jannick steps up to pick up all this responsibility. When Michael returns he is traumatized and starts being a bit of an arse. What ho – tragic consequences.

Problem is: Jannick’s arc makes sense, Michael’s doesn’t. We can believe that Michael is so traumatized that he ends up as such a bastard (we see what traumatized him) but since the film plays this against Jannick being nice we never really sympathise with Michael. He was dull before and now is nasty and dull. In the middle Connie Nielsen gets to stay still and take all the abuse. There are two films in Brothers: the one about how brothers affect each other is to the fore. But for the plot to work, the torture drama of Afghanistan needs to loom heavier. It probably tries to do too much. That said, the carefully judged balance of the brothers stories makes it work, even if it does bite of more than it can chew.