Men Of Honor


Directed by: George Tillman Jr.
Written by:Scott Marshall Smith
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Cuba Gooding Jr, Charlize Theron, Michael Rapaport
Released: February 22, 2001
Grade: B

An adaptation of actual events, Men Of Honor dictates the story of Carl Brasher (played by Cuba Gooding Jr).  As a youth, he toiled on his father's land but enlisted in the U.S. Navy just following World War II to make something of himself.  African-Americans were treated as lower class and Carl's duties were confined to the kitchen aboard the H.M.S. Hoist.  It is there he first met the Navy’s best deep sea diver, Master Chief Billy Sunday (DeNiro).  Billy was the best but in a dangerous rescue attempt he sustained injuries to his lungs and would never dive again.  Carl now knows what he wants.  He wants to become even better than Billy - he wants to become a deep sea diver himself.

Two years pass and Carl breaks long standing barriers to become the first African-American admitted to the Navy's diving school.  Surprisingly enough, the head of the division is Billy Sunday who has taken the position as compensation for his forced retirement.  Carl goes through all the dramas associated with being black in a white man's world but his determination and vow to his father keeps him from giving in.

Without discrediting the African-American's plight for equality, I felt I'd seen this film before and it offered little new perspective.  I knew exactly what would happen and am tiring quickly of films featuring leading black actors in roles that show how the race has been discriminated against (just look at The Hurricane, Rules Of Engagement and Shaft which have all been released in the past 12 months).  I know life hasn't been easy for many but we don't live in a perfect world and many are trying to make it better.

Whilst I don't know Carl Brasher's story personally, it's had a pretty good makeover for cinematic purposes.  I am also getting annoyed with “bad guy” actors overplaying their roles – they’re too smug and too obvious.  In Men Of Honor, it was David Conrad as Commander Hanks who tries to keep Carl Brasher from realising his dreams.

I enjoyed the performances although Charlize Theron's tiny role was fruitless and confusing.  Gooding Jr and DeNiro share passionate scenes together and watching their relationship evolve is the highlight of the film.  Director George Tillman Jr (Soul Food) should also be congratulated as the film features many tense underwater scenes which can be very difficult to shoot.

Men Of Honor tries to inspire but the considerable length and tiring screenplay will distract most audiences leading up to the final courtroom scene.  He may be a great man and a great hero but you just get the feeling that 20th Century Fox is trying just a little too hard.