The first son, Tommy, is portrayed by Tom Hardy who will play Bane in the upcoming Dark Knight Rises (like this movie, also filmed in my hometown of Pittsburgh). Tommy and his mother moved away from their father and his brother when Tommy was very young. Later, Tommy went away to the Marine Corps, like his father, and has returned full of anger, bitterness, and booze. He doesn’t love or even like his father, but he needs his help to train as a fighter after he levels the current champ in a sparring match. Yet, he has a history of heroic acts of unparalleled strength. After a video of his fight with the champ goes viral, a Marine he saved in Iraq (by tearing the door off of a tank, no less) discovers that his previously unknown savior is alive and in the States.
The older son, Brandon, played by Joel Edgerton, has moved on from his father, too. However he was in love when his mother fled, so he chose to stay behind, something for which Tommy hasn’t forgiven him. He was a former MMA fighter as well, but left it after being injured to teach high school physics. Yet circumstances align that put him back in the ring and on a collision course for a match with his younger brother. While Brandon has moved on from his troubled past, marrying his high-school sweetheart and starting a family of his own, Tommy clings to his anger and resists connection to his family. In the scene where Brandon and Tommy meet for the first time in years, Tommy asks if Brandon was in the Marines. Brandon says he wasn’t and Tommy replies, “Then you’re no brother of mine.”
While I will leave the specifics of Tommy’s backstory ambiguous, suffice it to say he travels along this path with a noble goal in mind. Yet, he resists making personal connections with anyone in his life and suffers throughout the entire movie because of it. In fact, Brandon and Tommy follow the paths of the classical hero and anti-hero, respectively. Tommy has been damaged by the war, but he isn’t crazy; he isn’t murderous. It is in this way that the director and the writers of the film avoid the troubling trend in film to present the veteran with mental-injury as damaged-goods. Tommy has been affected in a negative way by the war, but his anger and his suffering go farther back than the desert or boot camp. His experiences after the war were a symptom of his troubling attitude, not the cause of it. Warrior is a wonderful film and I would argue that no matter how wonderful the final Batman installment might be, it’s the second-best performance Tom Hardy delivered while acting in Pittsburgh.
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