Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Brothers Grimm

directed by Terry Gilliam

The Brothers Grimm poster  
During the French occupation of Germany, the brothers Grimm are engaged on a monster hunt. They have built up a reputation as the best when it comes to defending against supernatural threats. But the only thing they truly excel at is fleecing gullible villagers and creating illusory monsters with the help of their accomplices.

Their career stems from a childhood incident when their sister was seriously ill. Jacob (Heath Ledger) went to get help, and returned with magic beans instead of real medicine. Years later the practical Will (Matt Damon) is still reminding his brother about what happened.

Meanwhile, in a village that lies next to a forest that the locals believe to be enchanted, children are disappearing under mysterious circumstances. The French army apprehend the brothers, and use the considerable persuasive powers of an Italian torturer to make them investigate. If they fail, it's the guillotine. The scenes of torture are gleefully over the top, reminiscent of the anarchic atmosphere of Time Bandits.

Jacob and Will think they have come across a rival group of tricksters. But it soon becomes apparent that the power moving the forest trees is supernatural. The brothers need to engage the help of the cursed, frog-licking trapper Angelika (Lena Headey). She's reluctant to help them, and they are sceptical of her abilities.

The Brothers Grimm has a unique story, but as it is told you can see Jacob gathering the inspiration for the fairy tales they will later write. The imagery of Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, the witch with the apple in Snow White, and so on, is all there. Visual effects in this movie are fantastic, with the exception of the Gingerbread Man scene. The Gingerbread Man emerges as a black tar-like blob from the village well, and it's too cartoonish. It's appearance is entirely incongruous with the rest of the film.

Monica Belucci's witch queen is suitably creepy, both as a hag and a beauty. The French are brutal and murderous, all while being as camp as they come.

Our perception of fairy tales has been tainted by Disney's watered-down, sanitised versions of them. But The Brothers Grimm is rich in horror, both of the human kind and the supernatural. To an extent this is a film that falls between two audiences. The 12A certificate and the viciousness will discourage younger children, whilst older people might expect that because it's about fairy tales, it is aimed at a much younger audience. But in fact this movie has a very broad appeal. It's not as quirky as some of Terry Gilliam's other films, but it is entertaining and it retains some of that trademark Gilliam charm.

Film Details

Year: 2005

Categories: Films


Classification: 12

If you like this, try:

A Knight    

A Knight's Tale by Brian Helgeland
A peasant poses as a knight in this adaptation of a story by Chaucer.

Mirror, Mirror cover    

Mirror, Mirror by Tarsem Singh
Snow White does battle with a vain, evil queen obsessed with expensive and ridiculous couture.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard cover    

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling
These fairy stories, mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, have been told to young wizards and witches for centuries.

4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Terry Gilliam