French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud is known for tackling profound subject matter in films such as QUEST FOR FIRE, SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET, and ENEMY AT THE GATES. Occasionally he takes refuge in lighter films. After his first successful animal tale, THE BEAR (1989), Annaud's second wildlife film is TWO BROTHERS.
Here the focus is two rambunctious, adorable tigers--Kumal and Sangha--who live among ancient temple ruins in the Southeast Asian jungle. They become victims of the garish and gluttonous era of British Colonialism in the early 1900s. Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce), a well-known explorer, hosts lavish hunting parties that are in stark contrast with the untamed wilderness. When he stumbles on the tiger family, McRory kills the adult male tiger, but takes pity on Kumal, the traumatized cub left behind. When McRory is arrested for looting ancient artifacts, little Kumal is sold to the circus where local ringleaders beat him into submission and break his spirit. Meanwhile, Sangha, the second cub, is discovered by Raoul (Freddie Highmore), the son of a powerful local administrator (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), but he is later sent to His Excellency, The Prince (Oanh Nyguen), where he is trained to be a vicious killer. Similar to animal flicks like LONG JOURNEY HOME and NEVER CRY WOLF, Annaud further closes the gap between wildlife documentaries and high drama with the help of topnotch actors such as Pearce and longtime co-writer Alain Godard (with whom he worked on THE NAME OF THE ROSE and ENEMY AT THE GATES).