Projections - Movie Reviews

Men of Honor Men of Honor

There is something so inspiring about a person who can overcome extreme hardship to achieve a goal, and this film, based on real life hero Carl Brashere, celebrates his unbelievable accomplishments.

Carl (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), the son of a poor black sharecropping farmer, dreamed of becoming a Navy diver.  After World War II Carl enlisted in the Navy shortly after President Truman integrated the armed services, but the only position available to him was a cook.

After proving he might be a good candidate for training he was transferred to diver  school where he had the misfortune to have hard as nails Master Chief Billy Sunday (Robert DeNiro) as his diving trainer.

Sunday is a difficult character to understand.  At first, we aren't sure if he hates blacks or if he's just miserable to everyone.  He's also an alcoholic and when he's drinking, he gets mean and is hell bent on fighting the world.  This attitude results in his demotion which only makes him more ornery.

The movie follows these two men as their Navy careers coincide at the beginning of Carl's training, then take different routes, only to end up together again in a moving finale.

Carl Brashere had so many roadblocks thrown in his path, it's a wonder he survived, never mind thrived, in the Navy.  First, all of the white men except one refused to bunk with him in the barracks; then the wacky commanding officer (Hal Holbrook) would prefer to have Carl die in a diving accident than to have a black man graduate from his school; finally, he has serious physical limitations.

Gooding once again gives a marvelously strong performance and DeNiro is also wonderful as the bitter man who ends up respecting the man he once resented.

Like all films that build to a climax and draw the audience in, this one has us rooting for the central character with the rousing and emotional ending doing just that.  However, it doesn't go so far as to manipulate us.  It's a wonderful film about an extraordinary life.

Men of Honor

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