Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Men of Honor (2000)

Men of HonorMilitary training films are becoming so common that they are becoming a genre unto themselves. Among the more prominent we have, "Officer and a Gentleman", "Top Gun", "GI Jane", and now "Men of Honor". The fact that this one happened to be true doesn't change the fact that the formula is the same. This film is probably most like "GI Jane" since it focuses on the desegregation angle.

The story is actually quite inspirational and is probably the best human-interest story among those mentioned above. Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is unquestionably a man of great courage and principle, and his strength of character shines through brightly in this film. Unfortunately, director George Tillman, Jr. has tunnel vision in presenting the characters and eschews character development of various characters other than Brashear in favor of showing Brashear in a constant state of adversity. Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro) is a central figure, and except for the initial scene, the fistfight and a couple of scenes with his wife, we don't know much about him. For instance, Brashear sees the scars on Sunday's palms and we are to assume that he worked a plow, but there is no follow-up on that point. Mr. Pappy (Hal Holbrook) gets only one short scene by which we can judge him. The rest of his screen time shows him pacing around and ranting. If a director is going to make a human-interest story, he needs to humanize the characters.

Cuba Gooding Jr. gives an outstanding performance as Brashear. This is probably the best I've seen him. This is a role and a character that is far more complete than any part he has played before, and he rises to the occasion. In "Jerry Maguire", Rod Tidwell was a fascinating, but one-dimensional character with the depth of a rain puddle. Brashear is much more complex and grounded, and the issues he faces are life crises, making the part far more challenging. This is an excellent recovery from Gooding's last role in "Chill Factor", a film so dreadful that it was almost an act of professional suicide to take the part.

After a stint trying his hand as a comedian ("Analyze This", "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle", "Meet The Parents"), Robert DeNiro is back to his dramatic roots with an outstanding performance. DeNiro isn't a bad comedian, he is just such a great dramatic actor that it seems like he shouldn't waste his time doing comedy. DeNiro endows Billy Sunday with a rock hard personality belying a tortured soul. It is a pleasure watching him work.

It seems every film I watch lately has Charlize Theron in it. I saw "The Legend of Bagger Vance", "Men of Honor" and "The Yards" right in a row and I was beginning to wonder if she had a part in every film in 2000 (actually, she only did five). This was a minor role for Theron, but she carried it off well and managed to stay with DeNiro step for step. David Keith, who co-starred with Richard Gere in "Officer and a Gentleman", has a cameo here

The DVD has some interesting special features, including reflections by the real Carl Brashear and some deleted scenes.

I enjoyed this film despite the hackneyed plot and the one-dimensional presentation. I rated it a 7/10. I'm a sucker for underdog stories and I have a fondness for stories where strength of character is the central theme. This film is particularly strong in both areas and brings us two memorable acting performances that compensate for some of the director's shortcomings.

This is a wonderful, heartwarming film, as well as an indictment of the US Navy at a certain time in history. The story is a cinematic, biographical sketch of Carl Brashear, the first African-American to become a diver for the US Navy. Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Robert De Niro both give Oscar calibre performances in this gripping film.

The movie tells the story of Carl Brashear, whose parents instilled in him a determination that would cause him never to give up his dream of becoming a diver in the US Navy. He stuck to his guns, despite the overt racism that he encountered when he joined the Navy. The racism that he encountered would make it harder for him to achieve his life long dream.

Once he became a diver, Mr. Brashear upped the ante and strove to become a master diver. He struggled to do this against all odds, and just when he was on the cusp of achieving his goal, a tragic accident befell him, derailing him temporarily from the path to his ultimate goal. What he then does to fulfill his dream is radical, yet inpirational.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. gives a perfomance so moving and heroic, that the viewer feels like giving him a twenty one gun salute at the end of the film. Robert De Niro plays a racist master diver who is ultimately converted to the side of the angels, when he realizes that Carl Brashear is truly the best of the best. His performance is stellar.

The only problem with the movie is that most of the supporting roles pale in comparison to the two central ones played by Gooding and De Niro. Charlize Theron's role, that of De Niro's wife, is really superfluous to the story. Aunjanue Ellis, who affectingly plays Gooding's wife, has a more crucial, pivotal role than Ms. Theron, but remains a shadowy figure in the backround. Hal Holbrook's portrayal of a loony, racist Navy commander is rather one dimensional, more of a caricature than a character. Notwithstanding these small shortcomings, this is a riveting film that should not be missed.

Buy Men of Honor (2000) Now

"Men of Honor" was another excellent film but it left me wanting to know more. It was the fact-based story of the Navy's Master Diver Carl Brashear. He was the first black man to attend and graduate from Diving School. Cuba Gooding Jr portrayed Brashear who at a young age decided he wanted to be a diver for the Navy. BUT when he entered the Navy blacks were only allowed in the kitchens.

After coming to the attention of his CO, Brashear was given an opportunity to attend the school he really wanted to. He came face to face with Billy Sunday played by Robert DeNiro. In many ways Sunday wanted to see Brashear complete the course but his commander portrayed by Hal Holbrook tied his hands. Eventually Brashear was successful.

As Brashear's career progressed, Sunday's fell apart. Then there was a terrible accident, which resulted in Brashear losing a leg. The Navy wanted to retire him but he fought to stay in. Sunday came to his aid and helped him recover from the amputation. He was by his side when Brashear had to go to court to fight for the right to stay in the Navy. The court scene was very moving.

Yes there was a little romance in the movie and yes there was vulgarity but this film was very good. However it left me wanting more so I will have to go find of copy of the book the movie was based on to learn more about this amazing man's life. I wanted to see more of his training, more of what he went through, and more of the treacherous dives he went on that made him what he became.

Read Best Reviews of Men of Honor (2000) Here

I have heard some bad things about this film..."overdramatized fluff", "typical cliched writing" and so forth...

This film is so much better than the sum of its reviews.

First, the story--face it, it deserves to be told. This is about a real man who goes through the tenth level of hell and back to achieve his dream of becoming a Master diver. He has to face bigotry from his classmates and his superiors--the latter of whom are determined to fail him based on his skin color alone--and push himself past his limits to succeed. Yes, the plot was hokey in some areas, but a few hokey spots does not a bad film make.

Second, the acting. Only Cuba Gooding, Jr. could have pulled off the role of Carl Brashear, the diver in question. His performance was very well executed and brought me to tears in spots. Robert De Niro was wonderful as always, and I really don't care that Billy Sunday was a composite of Brashear's superiors throughout his career instead of a real person, because he pulled it off without a hitch. At times he reminded me of R. Lee Ermey, but the role would not have had the same depth if the latter had been cast--it was written for De Niro. The supporting cast was excellent as well--especially Charlize Theron and Aunjanue Ellis, whose roles, although small, were nonetheless pivotal.

The DVD version, both wide and full screen, includes a feature about--and narrated by--Carl Brashear himself, who was the head military advisor to the film, and it is definitely worth watching. I myself was amazed at the accuracy of the movie and was deeply inspired by this man who had had so much to overcome. George Tillman, Jr. did a wonderful job with his story.

Overall, I give it five stars out of five. If you thought this film was complete crap, then maybe you should go rent "Gigli." Criticism aside, though, "Men of Honor" isn't so much a biographical feature as it is a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and Carl Brashear is living proof.

Want Men of Honor (2000) Discount?

A dramatization of the life of Carl Brashear, the first African-American diver in the history of the U.S. Navy, "Men Of Honor," directed by George Tillman, Jr., is an uncompromising examination of personal courage, integrity and honor. Cuba Gooding, Jr. portrays Brashear, a man of unabashed determination who simply would not be deterred from achieving his goal, even in the face of apparently insurmountable obstacles, the most prevalent of which was blatant racial discrimination. As brutal and incomprehensible as it seems, there were those, including at least one high-ranking officer, who would rather have seen him die than pass diving school. That he stayed with it, passed and went on, not only to an illustrious career with the Navy, but one in which his achievements were nothing less than remarkable, is a demonstration of heroics tantamount to those for which medals are awarded. It's men like Brashear that should make veterans everywhere proud of their heritage as members of the Armed Forces. Such a story is, of course, a natural for the movies; and, if done properly, has the makings of a great one. And this one is. Tillman tells the story of Brashear, the son of a Kentucky share cropper, in a decidedly straightforward manner, without pulling any punches as he illustrates the inane bigotry faced by the young seaman. The heroics of the man speak for themselves, and Tillman wisely avoids any attempts at superfluous dramatic embellishments, the siren's song to which a lesser director may have succumbed, and which could so quickly have derailed this project. Tillman's work more than passes muster, and his attention to detail, along with impeccable pace and timing, are a major factor in the success of this film. It should land him an Oscar nomination. Another factor is the incredible talent with which Tillman had to work. Gooding embodies the qualities that made Brashear a hero, and it is through his outstandingly credible performance that we get to know this man. There's a subtle pride in his demeanor, a personification of his determination, that brings him so vividly to life on the screen; it's an Oscar worthy piece of work that should be acknowledged by the Academy. And Gooding had, not only a terrific role, but the best co-star with which an actor could hope to work. Robert De Niro stars as Master Diver Billy Sunday, the adversary turned ally who ultimately helped Brashear realize his goals. On the surface, Sunday is tough and pridefully simplistic; but underneath lies a complex individual that De Niro mines to full advantage. Any time De Niro appears in a film, expectations are high, as well they should be; he is an actor of immeasurable talents. And here, with his portrayal of Sunday, he scores another triumph. It's a brilliant performance, for which he must be recognized with an Oscar nomination. The outstanding supporting cast includes Charlize Theron (Gwen), Aunjanue Ellis (Jo), Hal Holbrook (Mr. Pappy), Michael Rapaport (Snowhill), Powers Boothe (Capt. Pullman), David Keith (Capt. Hartigan), Holt McCallany (Rourke), Joshua Leonard (Isert), Carl Lumbly (Mac, Carl's Father) and Lonette McKee (Ella, Carl's Mother). "Men Of Honor" is a superb, memorable film that recognizes the kind of heroics that go largely unsung and too often unheralded. That Tillman and this fine assemblage of actors have been able to illuminate the life of a man like Carl Brashear so fervently is a tribute to them as well as the Motion Picture Industry. But more than that, it is a well deserved tribute to a true hero, Carl Brashear. This is a movie that must not be missed.

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