In the early 20th century, Britain held a tight grip on much of the world. And the treasures of her colonies were open game to any fortune-seeker willing to trek into the nether parts of the kingdom.
Unfortunately, those most affected by the plundering were often innocent bystanders. Casting tigers as the stars of his movie, Director Jean-Jacques Annaud focuses on how pillaging and land development destroyed these animals' relatively peaceful lives. While the villagers' motives for killing tigers may be justified, the senseless slaughter by sportsmen and the harsh abuse of profiteers is not.
Deep in the jungle of Southeast Asia, two newborn cubs blissfully explore the decaying ruins of the ancient temple where they live. They are unaware a group of artifact hunters are moving closer to their home.
Drawn by the lure of wealth, the men want to haul the carved statues that adorn the sacred shrine back to London to sell them in the auction houses. Lead by Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce), an adventure writer who pens accounts of great hunters, the men have little respect for the land or people they are invading.
But to Kumal and Sangha, the treasure seekers seem to be little more than a strange curiosity their parents are willing to tolerate--until the men invade their lair. In the melee that follows, the cubs' father is killed and Kumal is caught.
Later, British officials prepare a carefully orchestrated hunt, where the mother tigress is trapped and then released just in time for a visiting guest (Oanh Nguyen) to gun her down. As shots ring out, Shangha is discovered cowering under an outcropping by Raoul (Freddie Highmore), the young son of an English administrator (Jean-Claude Dreyfus). Taken home, the growing cub soon wears out his welcome in the officer's home and is gifted to the palace menagerie.
Cruelly mistreated by their human captors, the two tigers grow to adulthood. Sold to animal trainers, Kumal becomes a famous, trained performer in the Zerbino Circus while Shangha paces his tiny enclosure, goaded to become a fierce fighter. Finally, for the sporting pleasure of their owners, the two brothers are brought face to face in a blood match spectacle.
For young viewers, the fighting scenes, hunting trips and a couple of tiger attacks may be unsettling. Still, by using beautiful cinematography, the director succeeds at masterfully letting the young cubs tell their story through actions rather than imposed voiceovers.
Forced into captivity, their freedom may be lost but the love between these Two Brothers is not. Giving screen time to their tale is one way to remind viewers that all living creatures have stock in this big blue planet.